With the sobriquets that once used to define Bangalore losing its significance because of the onslaught of development and progress, the city is now infamous for garbage, stray dogs, crime, traffic, among others.
To make matters worse, the garbage control has gone out of hand and BBMP has been forced to set a deadline of October 1st, to ensure segregation at source. A strategic date though, so that the corporation has enough time to clean up the mess that is usually left every year after the Vinaya Chaturthi festivity.
While there were recommendations by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) way back in 1997-97, even after 14 years, the corporations, across the country run helter skelter to devise ways to ensure that there is awareness created about celebrating the festival in an eco-friendly manner. But, the pace has been very slow.
Even today, people use this day to immerse idols in water bodies like rivers, lakes, ponds, estuaries, open coastal beaches, wells etc consequently polluting them. A matter of concern which has also resulted in public interest litigation being filed, the practice of toxic chemicals used in making idols is still prevalent.
Studies carried out to assess deterioration in water quality due to idol immersion reveal deterioration of water quality in respect of conductivity, bio-chemical oxygen demand and heavy metal concentration.
Idol worship has been in the practice in India since ancient time. To worship god and doddess only natural things like milk, curd, ghee, coconut, beetal and river water were usually used. Idols were made with clay and then coloured with natural colours like turmeric. The religious scripts, mythology and rituals have attempted to drive the importance of preserving nature by adoring it through the centuries. In present scenario, metals, ornaments, oily substances, synthetic colours, chemical are used to make polish and decorate idols for worship and when these idols are immersed our aquatic and surrounding environment get severally affected. Hence, there is urgent need to act on the guidelines for idol immersion.
In its guidelines released in the year 2010, the CPCB had stated that 'Concerned SPCB/PCC should conduct water quality assessment of the water body, preferably in Class-I cities (having population more than one lac), at three stages i.e. pre-immersion, during immersion and post immersion.
Considering the size of water body, appropriate number of sampling locations may be determined in order to get a fairly representative assessment of water quality.
For ascertaining water quality, Physico-chemical parameters such as pH, DO, BOD, COD, Conductivity, Turbidity, TDS, Total Solids and Metals (Chromium, Lead, Zinc and Copper) may be analysed and results posted on the SPCB’s website. SPCB/PCC shall help to local administration in preparing material for mass awareness for the purpose.'
Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) does not have any state oriented guidelines unlike Maharashtra and it follows the CPCB guidelines. But despite of the guidelines and initiatives, there is nothing much that has taken place in terms of ensuring that eco-friendly idols are used by people.
One should prepare the Ganesh idol from china clay or mud. Nowadays, idols are made from plaster of Paris so that they become light weight and more attractive. “There are references in our scriptures that Ganapati was created from grime. Hence it is appropriate to use a Ganesh idol made of mud.
Plaster of Paris does not dissolve easily in water and hence the idol floats on water after immersion.
Sometimes in cities, the remains of idols which have not dissolved in water for a long period are collected and a bulldozer is run over them to convert them into mud. This amounts to extreme denigration of the deity. The deity should be offered the same reverence when immersing it as when it is invoked.
Since the idol is not immersed properly, in a way it amounts to dishonouring the deity. Mixing of the plaster of Paris in water pollutes the river, sea, lake, etc. and can have an adverse effect on the health of living beings,” said K Karunakar, an ardent devotee and ex-president of Kamadevi Residents Association in Rajaji Nagar.
Plaster of Paris idols contain harmful chemicals like lead, arsenic, chromium, to name a few creating an adverse impact not only on the environment but also on humans.
But it is still widely used because it costs cheaper. The plaster of paris structure are easy to carve and set easily, which can save much time and money of poor artisans.
CPCB's General Guidelines for Idol Immersion:
Idols should be made from natural materials as described in the holy scripts. Use of traditional clay for idol making rather than baked clay, plaster of paris, etc. may be encouraged, allowed and promoted.
Painting of Idols should be discouraged. In case idols are to be painted, water soluble and nontoxic natural dyes should be used. Use of toxic and nonbiodegradable chemical dyes for painting idols should be strictly prohibited.
Worship material like flowers, vastras (clothes), decorating material (made of paper and plastic) etc. should be removed before immersion of idols. Biodegradable materials should be collected separately for recycling or composting. Non-biodegradable materials should be collected separately for disposal in sanitary landfills. Clothes may be sent to local orphan house(s). Public should be educated on ill effects of immersion in the holy water bodies through mass awareness programme.
The ‘Idol Immersion Points’ shall be cordoned of and barricaded. Synthetic liner may be placed in the bottom, well in advance. The said liner shall be removed on completion of immersion ceremony so that remains of idols would be brought to the bank. Bamboo and wooden logs, if any would be reused. Clay, etc may be taken to sanitary land fill for disposal.
Guidelines for Idol Immersion in lakes:
In case of immersion of idols in lakes or ponds, all the flowers, leaves and artificial ornaments of idols should be removed and idols may be immersed into a corner of pond using removable synthetic liners in the bottom. Post immersion, liners may be taken out along with remains of idols and lime should be added to the pond water for settling the solids. Desludging of the pond should be undertaken afterwards.