In stark violation of the National Green Tribunal order, many devotees on Thursday immersed idols made of plaster of paris (PoP) in the Yamuna, along with other 'puja' material like flowers and oil on the final day of Ganesh Chaturthi.
The NGT had last year banned immersion of idols made from non-biodegradable materials like PoP or plastic in the Yamuna and had allowed only biodegradable material to prevent from it getting more polluted.
However, at Kudsiya ghat on Thursday afternoon, families and truck after truck entered with their PoP idols, smeared with fluorescent colours for immersion, violating the court's orders.
"These idols are easily available. Others which are made of clay have to be placed on order. So we bought these," said Jitender Singh who had come from Gagan Vihar in Uttar Pradesh.
Munmum Shah from Karol Bagh, who has been visitng the ghat since five years with PoP idols, says she did not look for clay idol in the market because searching for them is a “task”.
Thursday was the 11th day since Ganesh Chaturthi, marking the end of the festivities. Immersion took place at seven identified ghats - Kudsiya ghat, Geeta ghat, Hathi ghat, Shyam ghat, Kalindi Kunj ghat, Mayur Vihar ghat, Geeta Colony ghat - across the city on Wednesday and Thursday. However, a heavy rush of devotees was seen only on Thursday.
Even though a separate area for disposing 'puja' material was identified at the ghat, people were seeing drowning flowers, garlands, oil, and lamps in the river, along with the idols.
According to the NGT order, there is a provision of imposing a fine of Rs 5,000 on those throwing in material, including religious items but even though a large number of people were violating it on Thursday, there was no authority at the ghat implemented it.
“We keep telling the people that these things are not allowed but how can you discipline them in such a huge congregation,” said a Civil Defense volunteer deployed at the ghat.
Manoj Mishra of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan, on whose petition the NGT order was given last year, said the there should be a provision of on the spot fines to set an example. He also said that the government should immediately advertise that PoP idols are not allowed so that people are more aware for upcoming festivals like Durga Puja.
"Also we need to have government authorised collection centres close to the river so that it will be the government's task to perform immersion in the right manner," he added.
However, the security and traffic arrangements were better than previous years with separate enclosures for immersion and barricades in place to prevent any mishaps.
“We are constantly on our toes. There are around 1,200 police personnel in this ghat and civil defense volunteers who are monitoring everything,” said a police official posted at the ghat.