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Solutions for Safer Festivals

My friend said, it doesn't make sense to write and "crib" about the problems that festivals create without offering solutions in return. Justified.

So here goes,

Festivals in Bombay are definitely many, being a secular city we're bound to celebrate all the festivals associated with the various religions in our city, we'll have Ganesh Utsav, Diwali, Durga Puja, Id, Christmas, and so on... Political parties aiming to be projected as the party for everyone will support these festivals to gain a double whammy, political mileage and votes. People will accept their support because they too have a justifiable desire to celebrate!

How do we, ensure that amidst this chaos, we prevent damage to our environment?

Let's start with the resources used to erect these festivals, Mandals are created, Idols are sculpted, Flower Garlands are utilised, Colours (or rang/gulal), Crackers, Diyas, Lanterns and now so often used the electric versions of lights and the likes. What does the maximum damage?
The various facets affected are, the water bodies - due to the immersion of idols and the colours and the flowers, the people - due to the noise, crackers, traffic, etc.

I've found some links on various views of other people about the same issue, and I've found this person's view to be quite concise and helpful. Simple Solutions to the Problems which will help the community in both ways!

The Problem

Traditionally, clay was used to make Ganesh idols. Over the years however, plaster of Paris (POP), which is lighter and cheaper, has become the favoured material to mould these idols. POP contains chemicals such as gypsum, sulphur, phosphorus, and magnesium. The dyes used to colour these idols contain mercury, cadmium, arsenic, lead, and carbon. Plastic and thermocol accessories are used to decorate these idols. Such materials are not biodegradable, hence are toxic. Also, while earlier the idols were quite small, today a spirit of competitiveness pervades the celebrations, so that the idols are becoming increasingly colossal. The immersion of idols made from non-biodegradable or toxic materials has the following environmental repercussions:
  • With the immersion of these idols in the sea or inland water bodies such as lakes and streams, the chemicals in these idols dissolve in the water. POP dissolves slowly, gradually releasing its harmful components. The water experiences a rise in acidity as well as traces of heavy metal. The toxic waste kills plant and animal life in the water. In Mumbai, for instance, dead fish washed ashore after the immersion is a common occurrence.

  • Plastic and thermocol waste, including polythene bags containing offerings, is usually immersed with the idols. Because it is non-biodegradable—meaning that it does not decompose—this waste simply keeps adding up. It also obstructs the flow of streams, leading to flooding during the rains. Running water, when obstructed, turns stagnant. This can become a breeding ground for diseases and is a major health hazard for a locality.

  • People who use water polluted by these immersions experience a host of health problems such as infections of the lungs, and diseases of the skin, blood, and eyes.

The Solution

There are ways to reduce the environmental damage from Ganpati celebrations:

  • Avoid the use of idols made from POP. Always go for those made of unbaked natural clay, natural fibre, or even recycled paper. Ensure that the dyes used to colour the idols are organic or vegetable in origin. Some years ago, natural clay idols were not always easy to get and had to be specially ordered. Today, however, many volunteer organisations make and sell these environmentally safe idols and encourage people to use them.

  • Do not use thermocol or plastic as decorations or accessories for your Ganpati idol. Instead, use cloth, wood, paper, and other natural materials that are safer when immersed in water.

  • Immerse the idol in a tub or a tank specially made for the purpose. Later, you can discard the water by pouring it into your garden.

  • If there is an artificial tank in your area specifically created for immersion purposes, use this instead of a natural source of water such as a lake or a stream.

  • Some people use a metal or stone idol. They symbolically immerse this in a bucket of water, or even carry it in procession to the sea, hold it under the water, and then bring it back home.

  • Collect offerings of flowers and other organic material and put them in a compost pit. These can be used to fertilise your garden. If you must immerse them, wrap them in newspapers instead of polythene bags.

  • Song and dance are an integral part of the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations. However, ear-splitting decibels are not just disturbing, but a major health hazard. Moderation is the key to a safe and enjoyable Ganesh Chaturthi

These solutions would go a long way in helping change people's attitude towards festivals, it's not the stopping of people's celebration that I'm asking for, it's a change in terms of the manner of the celebration!

The political powerplay and motives involved, will undoubtedly continue to plague these issues, hence the people need to be made aware about the various implications of their actions so that they're better informed while they make their decisions.


Thats better! atleast you wont crib now..
Pensativo said…
pretty much informative :)

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