- Mumbai-based local artist is making Ganpati idols using waste paper
- 50 kilos of paper recycle so far to make 350 Ganesh idols
- Paper idols dissolve easily in water within 5-6 hours
Preparations are in full swing for the 10-day festivities to begin on Ganesh Chaturthi on August 25. As different states prepare for this annual festival in their own way, Maharashtra and in particular Mumbai usually sees a more grand scale of celebrations during this time of the year. According to Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, last year around three lakh Ganesh idols were immersed in Mumbai. All of these are then immersed into the sea, posing a huge environmental threat and risk to marine life. Most of these idols are made of Plaster of Paris (PoP) which is non-biodegradable in nature and are coated with paints which contain toxins like lead and mercury. To combat this issue, 38-year-old Rohit Vaste, a Mumbai-based artist started sculpting eco-friendly Ganesh idols. He uses clay, organic glue and waste paper to build these non-polluting idols.
Mr Vaste wanted to sculpt idols which weren’t fragile, were light-weight so that people do not face difficulty in handling them and were even environmental friendly.
The idols made of PoP are very heavy to carry and they break easily, leaving behind a mess. I had heard somewhere that paper when mixed with an organic binder can turn into a hard substance and thus decided to use this method in making paper Ganesh idols, says Mr Vaste.
Paper Ganesh In The Making
Papers used for making these idols are procured from the local kabadiwalas. So the process from the very start follows an environment friendly approach by recycling paper. The paper is divided into bits and then mixed with clay to make the dough. This dough is then moulded and once the sculpture takes shape, a layer of recycled paper is draped over it again to bind the materials firmly using organic glue. Even the paint used for coating these idols are not toxic in nature.
It was like killing two birds with one stone. On one hand I was making eco-friendly idols and on the other, scrapped papers were getting recycled too, says Mr Vaste.
The size of paper Ganesh idols can vary between 1 feet and 3 feet and the prices range from Rs 2,100 to Rs 20,000. Consumers can find the product on the artist’s online venture ‘paperganesh.com’. Till now he has sold 350 paper Ganesh idols and has used up about 50 kilos of recycled paper. Currently, these idols are even being exported to other countries.
Advantages Of Using Paper Ganesh Idols
Though the idols are made from paper, the binding is quite strong and the idols are durable and easy to handle. On immersion these paper idols do not leave sludge behind like the PoP ones and it dissolves easily within 5-6 hours. The only residue these idols leave behind is paper pulp, which can easily be collected.
Talking to NDTV, Mr Vaste says, Even though these idols are environment friendly, I would still request people to not go and immerse it in the sea as the paper that is left behind can be easily consumed by marine fishes. Government has made several temporary ponds for the Visarjan day, immerse your idol there. The paper can easily be collected by the state municipal corporation workers once the festival ends.
Mr Vaste, further adds that people should look for alternative ways to do practice the ritual of visarjan. Instead of going for the already stretched natural water resources, people can probably create temporary ponds to immerse the idols. With these Paper Ganesh idols, post immersion, the water that remains can be recycled for other purposes like gardening.
Rohit Vaste’s work has found support from Udaykumar Shirookar, Assistant Commissioner of BMC Ward B.
It saddened me to see bits and pieces of idols floating idly on the water bodies and polluting them to such a great extent. When I saw an initiative like this, I thought it’s best if people can get to know about it and make a shift towards eco-friendly Ganpatis. I have asked Mr Vaste to increase the quantity of these idols for next year’s celebration, says Mr Shirookar.
He further added, I have also pitched to get CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) funding for this initiative and people are already coming forward. 1 acre of land in Bhiwandi has been promised to us by one of our beneficiaries as we would need a larger space to build these idols in large number.
Paper Ganesha idols may not have gained mainstream acceptance to scale up production just yet, but given the urgent need to make our festivals environmentally sustainable, it may be one of the alternatives worth considering.