"A lot of people still prefer Ganesha idols made up of Plaster of Paris then the eco-friendly ones. This is because POP idols are prettier and cheaper. We understand that beauty is attractive but at the cost of the environment; sound selfish," said Rajesh Patil an expert in eco-friendly Ganesha idols. One of the most important festivals of India, Ganeshotsava is 10 days long festival of Lord Ganesha which is widely celebrated in Maharashtra and also across the nations. It was started by revolutionary Lokmanya Tilak for creating unity and brotherhood among people during the time of 1857 revolt. However, with changing times and with nuclear families trend, people have started bringing idols at their homes. The festivities culminate on the tenth day with the idol immersion in water bodies. Though, this immersion of idols in the water bodies often brings toxins to the rivers which eventually pose a threat to aquatic life.
To combat this increase in toxin that get immersed in water every year, concept of Eco-friendly Ganesha is gaining popularity where the idols are made up of soil, clay and even the normal red plant's soil. Any Ganesha idol which doesn’t harm the environment is called as an eco-friendly Ganesha.
Pollution caused by the plaster of Paris (POP) idols
The immersion of idols made up of chemical materials causes’ significant water pollution, the toxic waste from these materials kill plants and animals living in the water bodies. However, Eco- friendly Ganesha enables you to celebrate the festival in a grand way without harming Mother Nature.
The elements used in decorating Lord Ganesha also contaminate water and make the water hard and unsafe to consume. Shailaja Deshpande, an environmentalist who works for river conservations said, “After the immersion, the toxic paint that is used in the idols get mixed with the water bodies, it circulates in water and causes diseases like infertility, indigestion to the aquatic animals”.
Using POP idols harms oxygen levels. Amount of lead used in the preparation of POP affects the heart and kidney, POP being a non-biodegradable component it never dissolves easily. Highlighting the same, Deshpande said “The way our life depends upon the food chain aquatics too have one when the planktons; algae-like substance gets covered by the percolated POP the small fish who survive on them dies and so it affects the bigger fish and the chain gets disturbed. That’s why we can see extinction in the species of fish
Considering it as the need of an hour people should start using Ganesha idols which are eco-friendly. However, with increasing awareness in society, there are a lot of eco-friendly Ganesha idols available in the market. One such vendor in Eco-friendly Ganesha idols Rajesh Patil said, "We especially sell the idols made from plant-soil so that later it can be grown to plants. Even some kits are provided which consists of a pot, a plant-soil idol and some indoor plant seeds. The idol is immersed in pots and adding the appropriate amount of water and seeds a beautiful plant can be grown out of it."
Benefits of using eco-friendly Ganesha idols
Idols made of POP are non-biodegradable and it contaminates water by killing the aquatic lives and expanding the corrosive substance in the water. While eco-friendly idols are bio-degradable and they won't hurt any living creatures in the water. Plaster of Paris and other harmful colours used in the idols also contaminates water that can cause health problems. However, eco-friendly idols which are made of organic soil can solve this problem. The components used to design Lord Ganesh contain various metals which pollute the water. Fake diamonds and glitters used to make Ganesh idols are also harmful. Shailaja Deshpande said "Use of sparkles and the glitters, and thermocols used to make the mandaps create more toxins in water bodies."
Eco-friendly idols are easy to make. If one requires a Ganesha idol made of Plaster of Paris, one may need to rely upon the sculptor. In the case of eco-friendly idols, you can make one yourself with the help of your family members. It spreads more satisfaction and congruity in the family and among the individuals.
Festivals are events of expression of happiness and gratitude. India is a land of festivals and each of them is celebrated with great enthusiasm, however, it is also the responsibility of citizens to adopt methods that are eco-friendly to celebrate the festivals without harming the nature.
Written by: Selvi Pareek