India is a country with incredible diversity, and this rich diversity results in a large number of different festivities and their celebrations. One such major carnival is the Ganesh chaturthi festival. Every year Ganesh chaturthi is celebrated with great pomp and show. It is usually a 10-day long festival which begins by placing Lord Ganesha’s idols privately at homes and then marking its end by submerging them into water bodies, regarded as holy immersion. These festivities bring people together and are a source of social happiness annually. Unfortunately though, our methods of celebration have a downside, in terms of impact on the planet.
Most of the idols are made from toxic, non-biodegradable materials including plastic, paper, cement, non-natural colors, plaster of Paris etc which do not fully dissolve in water and end up contaminating it. Read more details about the polluting impact.
Ill effects on the environment
- Whenever these toxic chemicals start dissolving in water bodies, they have a lethal effect on aquatic life killing fish, frogs and other water sustaining organisms.
- Plaster of paris is a substance which cannot completely dissolve in water, it reduces oxygen level in the water, which again poses a threat to living beings.
- Sometimes even paper is used to make idols of shree Ganesha and it’s a myth that this is an eco friendly way because little do people know that paper also reduces the oxygen level in the water and generates methane gas. Apart from that, trees are cut down to make paper and even wasting paper itself is not environmentally friendly.
- The polluted water becomes a factor for many health hazards to humans, like skin infections, breathing problems etc.
- All these impurities lead to an increase in the acid content in the water.
- The careless immersion also blocks the natural flow of water, which again leads to the breeding of harmful mosquitoes and pests in water.
In the state of Maharashtra, every year an estimated 190,000 idols are immersed in water, idols that are made up of non-biodegradable material which increases water degradation levels. Fishing communities finds pieces of immersed idols entangled in their fishing nets, even after several days of immersion, which gives us evidence that these pieces do not get fully dissolved. The Central Pollution Control Board reports that annual immersion has significantly increased the amount of iron,copper,lead, mercury, chromium and acid in these water bodies. In 2015 after Ganpati celebrations, dead fish were found in the Milap nagar lake in Dombivli East, Mumbai.
The Ganesh Chaturthi festival is celebrated to pay homage to lord Ganesha and seek his blessings, but this type of devastation in the name of celebration will shun the ideals of Lord Ganesha. We are not only damaging our source of living but also, from a religious point of view, not living up to that particular God’s ideals.
A change needs to happen. Eco friendly means of celebration should be adopted. Instead of the toxic materials currently in use, we can change the contents of idols to mud, rose petals, leaves, herbal colours, coconut tusks, alums, chocolates etc. In 2017, we have seen idols made of cow dung gaining popularity.
True blessings can reach us only when we take good care of our surroundings, and ensure that our forms of worship and celebration do not amount to being a threat to the nature around us.
Written By: Manaswita Sachdeva
Edited By: Anirban Banerjee