Monday, August 10, 2009

For an environmental friendly Ganesh Chaturthi

For a safe and environment friendly Ganesh Chaturthi, dāram along with ecoxist brings to Hyderabad a small number of eco-friendly idols of the elephant lord. Made in Sirsi, Karnataka and Pen, Maharashtra these idols are made from clay that dissolves easily in water and are coloured with non-toxic colors that cause no harm to the environment or to human beings.

Large Ganpati

the idol from Sirsi
Adhi Ganesh

the idol from Pen



To be able to choose the most appropriate ecosensitive solution it is important that we understand the environmental impacts of Ganesh Chaturthi.

These can be summarised to be the following:

1. The water pollution caused by the immersion of Plaster of Paris idols into natural water bodies.
2. The water pollution caused by chemical paints used on these idols.
3. The waste generated by the non biodegradable accessories used during the worship.
4. Noise pollution
5. Traffic congestion
6. Increased consumerism

Amongst these the first two can be partially resolved by a shift to eco sensitive materials and practices.


The Issue
For some years there has been a growing awareness about the water pollution caused by the immersion of Ganesh idols made out of Plaster of Paris (PoP), in natural water bodies such as lakes, rivers and the sea. PoP is not a naturally occurring material. Plaster of Paris is a calcium sulfate hemi-hydrate : (CaSO4, ½ H2O) derived from gypsum, a calcium sulfate dihydrate (CaSO4 , 2 H2O), by firing this mineral at relatively low temperature and then reducing it to powder. While idols made out of naturally occurring clay (shaadu in Marathi) dissolve within hours of immersion in water, PoP idols may take anywhere between several months to years to fully dissolve. In addition, when chemical paints are used to decorate the idols, these paints contain heavy metals such as mercury and lead, which seep into the water as the idol dissolves.

In Bangalore a study done by the Central Pollution Control Board to assess the impact of immersion of Ganesh idols on the lakes revealed the following:

* Increase in the acid content in the waters.
* The TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) increased by a 100%
* The Dissolved Oxygen content increased during the day due to the agitation of waters during immersion and reduced at night when organic discharge increased.
* The heavy metal content sampling showed an increase in metals such as iron which increased nearly 10 times and the content of copper in the sediments increased by 200 to 300 %.

Possible solutions:
Since the main issue around water pollution has got to do with the idol immersion ritual, several people are now suggesting a slight variation of this ritual to avoid water pollution. These include:

1. Immersing the idol in a water tank constructed by the government, instead of directly into natural water bodies.
2. Using only a natural clay idol and immersing it either in the tank or in a bucket of water at home.
3. Immersing a 'betel nut' which symbolises the idol and reusing the same idol every year.
4. If one is using a PoP idol, simply sprinkling a few drops of water on it as a symbolic immersion and donating the idol to be recycled for the following year.

To see photographs of the situation in Mumbai after immersion visit here

For more details and information
visit ecoexist here

Watch a video of the making of the idols


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