New Delhi: A well-known international publication had described the famous Ganesh Chaturthi as a ‘toxic festival’ after a report by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in 2010 stated that immersions of Ganpati idols have drastically increased the presence of iron, copper, mercury, chromium and acid in water surrounding Mumbai and other western Indian towns. The report further said that both aquatic and human life was in danger as the effluents in water bodies keep increasing during festivals.
Away from Mumbai, the festival is a cause for concern elsewhere too. Given the deteriorating conditions of water bodies, the Hyderabad High Court last year had directed the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) to ensure that height of the Ganapati idols should not exceed 15 feet and discourage idol makers to use artificial colours and Plaster of Paris (POP). Along with the two directives, the GHMC also came up with idea of building immersion tanks to divert the immersions from the Hussain Sagar lake.
With an investment of nearly 6.95 crores, the civic body constructed 10 such immersion ponds in 2016 and 3,500 idols with less than 15 feet were immersed in these ponds. This year the GHMC has built another 15 ponds. The GHMC expects to attract 3,000 idols per immersion tank. To make the whole process easier steps are constructed around the pond and interestingly it has been inspired from the design of Ulsoor lake in Bengaluru.
Talking to NDTV, Y. Shekhar Reddy, Superintendent Engineer, GHMC says, “These tanks will serve a good purpose in reducing water pollution. Last year the initiative was quite a success as we recorded a decent amount of idols being decentralised from Hussain Sagar. The GHMC aims to build 44 more ponds in the years to follow. While we are trying to build one pond in every locality, we are also propagating idols below 15 feet so that eventually there are no idols immersed in the lake.”
Fresh water will be used from the nearby lakes in the ponds. The polluted water from the ponds will be pumped into the nearby drains or into the sewage lines attached to lakes. As for the silt, heavy municipal vehicles will be used to clear them.
The GHMC will also take care of the wastes like flowers, fruits, incense sticks stuffed in polyethylene bags, and other such waste generated during immersions. The civic body will strictly ask the citizens to perform the puja or rituals on the steps and remove all kinds of materials attached to the idol before immersion. Dustbins are placed along the steps for citizens to discard the waste.
Over the years, along with the increase in the magnitude of celebrating festivals in India, environmental hazards caused by them have also gone up significantly. But little measures like these immersion ponds can help curtail further pollution of water bodies that are already fighting for survival and also help retain the essence of the long standing traditions attached with these festivities.