Saving Aquatic life during Ganesh immersion

  • Ganesh Idols that even fish can eat

Lata Jain

With Ganesh Festival round the corner, environmentalists and several NGOs are working to save the pollution in the lakes and other water bodies were the Ganesh idols are immersed in big numbers.

lata jain

Lata Jain

A Mumbai-based Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) has created idols with corn and vegetable powder – ingredients that can be consumed by marine organisms – and colored with natural materials such as turmeric, geru and chandan which dissolve in water.

The annual celebration of Ganesh Festival is highly spirited, filled with days of dancing, dousing one other with color and loudly chanting: “Ganpati bappa morya ,agle barse thu laukar aa ‘The celebration ends on the 11th day, when devotees formally bid farewell to the elephant-headed god by immersing physical idols into the water.

Unfortunately, the growth of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival has not necessarily been sustainable. Over time, public celebrations have become more lavish, youngsters into forced collection of “forced chandas” temples have become grander, music has become louder, and Ganesh idols have become larger. The Statues that were once constructed of earthy clay are now built using the less expensive – and less biodegradable – plaster of Paris. Harmless vegetable dyes have similarly given way to more vivid – and more toxic – chemical-based paints.

Unlike clay and sandalwood paste, plaster of Paris is not a naturally occurring material; rather, it is a calcium sulfate hemihydrates, which can take years to fully dissolve. In addition, most chemical paint contains heavy metals like mercury and lead, which do not dissolve at all. The pollution boards reports that the annual immersion of Ganesh idols has significantly increased the content of iron, copper, mercury, chromium and acid in water. Equally appalling is how fishermen find pieces of once-revered Ganesh idols tangled in their nets, alongside dead mercury-laden fish.

For the collective sake of India’s aquatic life, this NGO is making forty idols at Nagpur and we have received orders from across the country, said Anand Pendharkar, founder, NGO Sprouts. “These idols would dissolve within four to five hours of immersion.”

The nine-inch idols have been created by Sprouts Environmental Trust, with support from a private company that designed the campaign. Srreram Athray and Elizabeth Dias,  two senior creative directors from the company designed the campaign ‘God save the ocean’, Over a span of one-and-a-half months, “We had to test the idol properly as there are chances that one of the main ingredients – the vegetable powder – could deteriorate,” said Athray.

While the big idols take years to dissolve in the water, these idols will only take 4-5 hours to dissolve, he claimed. Each idol takes at least six to seven days to make and is priced at Rs 900.

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