Ganesha festival is a global celebration which begins with welcoming of the Ganpati idols at home amid chants of ‘Ganpati Bappa Morya’. This 11-day long festivity ends with large scale immersion of these idols into sea, lakes, oceans, etc. This procession of bidding Cheerios to the divinity and requesting him to come back soon is a widely known concept. But, another far and wide known fact is that these immersing of idols made using plaster of paris, paints, rods, clothes, etc. have harmful effects on the environment.
Ganpati Festival Celebration
On Ganesh Chaturthi, many worshipers or devotees bring Ganapati idol (small clay statues) for ten days. In those ten days people visit relatives, nearer public Ganesh Idols. Also devotees listen to spiritual songs and offer flowers, Modak, Durva etc. Each day ends with singing Aarti in honor of Ganapati, other gods and saints. Though Ganesh festival is celebrated in India, the maximum enthusiasm is seen in Maharashtra State.
What really happens after the Ganpati idols are immersed during Visarjan?
Water Pollution during Ganapati Visarjan
Every year, the marine life is affected adversely due to the festive celebrations and this scenario particularly emerges every time as Ganesh Chaturthi comes to an end. While the celebrations are not wrong but the damage to the marine life to such an extent raises a question about the way of celebration.
In recent years, we have seen increased awareness about water pollution caused by visarjan i.e. immersion of Ganesh Idols in lakes, rivers and Sea which are made out of Plaster of Paris (PoP) i.e. calcium sulphate hemi –hydrate. It takes several months to totally dissolve Ganesh Idols made up of PoP into water.
Also, colors used in decoration of idols contains harmful chemicals containing mercury, lead which leaks into water as idol dissolves. It increases acid content, Total Dissolved solids (TDS) and Heavy metals in water. It kills aquatic plants and marine life, damaging ecosystem under water.
Along with Ganesh idols people dump other accessories like thermocol, plastics, etc. as well adding to the level of water pollution.
Solid Waste Generated during Ganapati Festival
Along with Idols several other accessories are used in worship of Ganapati such as, flowers, fruits, coconuts, incents, camphor, cloth, plastic, thermocol. Etc. It is collectively called as Nirmalya.
Every year government spends crores of rupees to clean and dig out tons of garbage from natural water sources such as rivers, lakes etc.
These are all ill effects of Ganapati festival and is essential for to know everyone, so that it becomes easier to take initiatives to reduce bad effects of Ganesh Chaturthi on environment.
How To Make Ganesh Utsav More Eco-Friendly?
Ganpati idols were largely being made of plaster of Paris and synthetic paints, which are not eco-friendly materials. When the idols were immersed, these materials did not dissolve easily and were a major source of water pollution. Fortunately the tide has shifted toward eco-friendly idols made of natural products like clay and mud that are decorated with vegetable dyes. If you still buy idols made of plaster of Paris, consider switching over to the eco-friendly ones. In fact, nowadays you can even attend a workshop and make your own Ganpati out of clay ratherthan just purchasing it from the store.
As you start to buy more natural decorations, you should consider recycling them. Rather than putting them in the sea, put them in the soil of your houseplants or in the garden nearest to your home. They will biodegrade and act as compost for the plants.
Ganpati idols are left in the water bodies at the same time, clogging the water body and harming the marine life. What you can do instead is immerse your Ganpati in an artificial immersion tank. That way, the water body remains unpolluted and there is no risk of the same water being used later for irrigation or drinking purposes and harming people. The fish and other marine life will also be saved from harm.