- Last year Pune had diverted 120 tonnes of waste from Mula-Mutha river
- More than 400 people were stationed across 20 ghat for cleanup
- 106 tonnes of garbage was sent for composting
New Delhi: Devotees in several parts of India like Mumbai, Pune and Hyderabad participated in large numbers to take part in the immersion process marking Anant Chaturdashi, the last day of the 10-day long festival that began on August 25. As people bid goodbye to the elephant-headed God for the year, civic bodies and environmentalists were worried about the amount of damage it would cause to the water bodies.
But with greater awareness, there were many examples this year of people taking steps to make sure Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations are environment friendly too. In Maharashtra’s Pune city more than 400 residents of Pune (which included 150 ragpickers, 200 volunteers and 60 supervisors from ragpicker’s organisation – Solid Waste Collection and Handling (SWaCH) cooperative) ensured that Mutha-Mula river faces less brunt of the immersion this year.
First, these Swachh volunteers were instrumental in convincing devotees to not immerse their idols in the river and instead opt for artificial tanks. Of the total 2,20,000 idols immersed this year, nearly 20 per cent (46,525) of the idols were immersed into the tanks provided by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC). Post immersion in artificial tanks, Ammonium bicarbonate is an inorganic compound will be added in these tanks. The final product ammonium sulfate, which is an excellent soil fertilizer, will be used in gardening said Suresh Jagtap, head of the Solid Waste Management department, PMC.
Apart from promoting immersion in artificial ponds, these swachh volunteers were stationed across 20 ghats of the Mutha-Mula river on two days – August and September 5.
For people to discard the nirmalaya (waste), the SWaCH volunteers had kept huge plastic bags and bins on the ghats. While the volunteers convinced the devotees to immerse their idols in artificial ponds, the rag pickers segregated the dry and wet waste through the day. About 106 tonnes of wet waste consisting mostly of flowers, edibles was collected and distributed among the organisations that took part in the ‘Swachh Nirmalaya’ initiative. As for the 32 tonnes of dry waste, some was taken by the ragpickers to sell or recycle it and the rest was taken by the PMC to deposit it at recycling centres.
Suchismita Pai, member of SWaCH, believes that the success of the initiative goes to the people, “This year people were much more organised, disciplined and co-operative. Most of them listened to the volunteers and opted for an eco-friendly ganesh visarjan.”
Echoing her thoughts Priya Kathuria, Head of Operations, SWaCH adds, “With enough immersion tanks available, requests from the civic bodies and efforts by the volunteers, most of the people adhered to Swachh activity. Infact on some ghats zero idols were immersed in the river.”
Some volunteers even got their children along with an objective of making the young guns an integral part of cleanliness drives. “We had our children with us and what we observed was people were more receptive to the children in giving Nirmalya and allowing them to touch the nirmalya on the idols. The enthusiasm of the kids and their inherent charm surprised people and were more than willing to listen to the kids. Moreover, the activity also brings awareness among this young generation,” says Tushar Munshi, an active member of Rotary club.
This wasn’t the first time residents of Pune came together and celebrated an eco-friendly Ganpati. The ‘Swachh Nirmalaya Mission’ was started in 2008 and it had managed to divert about 12 tonnes of garbage from getting dumped into the river. Over the years, with more and more households getting Ganpati idols at home, the waste generation has also increased and last year a whopping 120 tonnes of waste was saved from being discarded into the river.