- Chhath Puja is scheduled to be held from October 24 to 27
- Ghats in Delhi, Patna and Kolkata face severe pollution during Chhath
- Civic bodies have taken several steps to ensure clean celebrations
It is often unanimously said that festive occasions in India do not come to an end, and rightly so. The end of Diwali celebrations have been briskly taken over by the drumbeats of Chhath Puja. Celebrated in honour of the Sun God and his wife, the four-day long celebration involve festivities and rituals at river banks and ghats. Chhath is celebrated with huge fervour in Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and West Bengal. The dependence on ghats for Chhath festivities has traditionally put huge environmental pressure on them, as waste material from gatherings is often disposed of directly into the rivers, resulting in severe depletion in their water quality.
Chhath Puja is scheduled to be celebrated from October 24 to October 27 this year. Yamuna in Delhi will bear the brunt of the festivities as people celebrating the occasion will congregate near the ghats and are expected to spend considerable time there. Yamuna, which is already one of the most polluted rivers in the country, has had to deal with rise in pollution levels previously also, post Chhath Puja celebrations. As per the Delhi Pollution Control Committee’s 2016 report, biological oxygen demand (BOD) levels had shot up to 30 mg/l against the permissible 3 mg/l and dissolved oxygen, which should be 4 mg/l had plummeted to nil, showcasing how severe the water pollution levels were due to Chhath Puja.
This year, following the National Green Tribunal’s order to ensure clean ghats following festive celebrations, the government of Delhi has taken some measures to ensure that pollution from Chhath Puja celebrations do not hamper the already polluted Yamuna. The Delhi government has extended Chhath celebrations to be held across 565 ghats this year, compared to 268 last year. At the three ITO ghats, artificial pits with water from borewell have been filled for devotees to take a dip into, if they wish to avoid taking a dip into the Yamuna river. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) will begin cleaning up the ghats from November 28 onwards, as soon as the festival is over. Special signage has also been installed in the ghats, asking devotees to not dispose oil or plastic into the river.
We will clean up ghats from Saturday onwards to ensure that waste does not get accumulated. During the festivities, we are cleaning up at regular intervals to ensure that there is no pollutant flow into the river, said Vivek Pandey, Additional Commissioner, East Delhi Municipal Corporation.
Patna, where Chhath is arguably the largest festival of the year, will also see arge scale preparation throughout the week leading up to the festival. Trash cans have been placed across all major roads and streets leading up to Patna’s major ghats. Devotees have been instructed to dispose of waste in dustbins placed in and around the ghats and not into the river. The progress of the state capital’s preparedness for a Swachh Chhath is being monitored by the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar himself.
West Bengal, another state where Chhath Puja is celebrated with utmost festive spirit, the local administration is trying to ensure that the principal rivers are not affected by the festivities. Ghats were washed by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC), along with local NGOs on October 25. The ghats were also restricted only to Chhath devotees till October 27, to ensure that the municipal corporation could focus exclusively on Chhath Puja and related concerns. Dustbins have been placed across all the major ghats in Kolkata and sections of water in Hooghly and Rabindra Sarovar ghats have been cordoned off with nets for the civic bodies to retrieve the disposed waste with ease. In Siliguri in North Bengal, the local administration has made an artificial ghat at Gandhi Maidan for devotees to celebrate Chhath.
We will see that devotees do not dispose oil or plastic into the rivers. For the rest of the waste, we will be using nets to retrieve and dispose these of properly. Certain ghats will also be off limits till the festivities end so that no other activity other than Chhath celebrations takes place there, said Bijan Das, Deputy Director, Waste Management, Kolkata Municipal Corporation.
Diwali celebrations resulted in deteriorating air quality across major Indian cities and with Chathh, some of India’s major rivers are in danger of being polluted. After Ganesh and Durga idol visarjan, Chathh poses fresh threat to the rivers, underlining the need to make our festivals more enviornment friendly.