Costing the earth

Environmental Hazard
Last Updated : 12 September 2010, 11:35 IST

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The festival of Ganesha Chaturthi was traditionally celebrated with people creating  idols out of mud from their own gardens and finally immersing them in the nearby well or a bucket of water.

Today, while the festivities continue, people have  forgotten the traditional ways of celebration. The festival has become commercialised and every year, numerous painted idols are immersed in water bodies.

Metrolife checked out the negative impact of the festivities on the environment. One of the most common problems is the pollution caused by the immersion of idols, made out of plaster of Paris, into natural water bodies.

“The plaster of Paris, which is used to make idols, doesn’t dissolve in water,” says Bhargavi S Rao, who works with the Environment Support Group.

These idols take several months to years to fully dissolve. “And the paint on the idols contain metals such as mercury and lead which contaminate the water,” says Raghunandan Hegde, a professional.

“We don’t have as many lakes as we used to in Bangalore and now there are more number of people celebrating the festival. All this creates an unhealthy environment,” says Chandra Shekhar Balachandran, Professor at The Indian Institute of Geographical Studies. Among many other ill-effects, the acid content in the waters also increases.

Another major hassle during the festival is the noise pollution. “Ganesha celebrations at the community level have decibel levels that are beyond permissible limits and are a huge nuisance,” says Bhargavi.

“I don’t understand the need to play loud movie songs during the festival,” says Aditya, a professional. But that is not it. The waste generated by the non-biodegradable accessories, used during the worship, also create lot of pollution.  “The electric lights that are used to decorate the idols increase the carbon footprint,” says Bhargavi.

“The amount of waste that is generated after the festival is a lot and the BBMP is not able to dispose it off because we don’t have a system in place to deal with it,” says Aditya.

Many people feel that these changes have come about with the change in lifestyle. “There is a certain kind of physiological hang-up about having huge idols during the festival that people can’t get rid of,” says Chandra Shekhar.  People still celebrate the festival with great fervour but due to commercial reasons, they have skipped the integral part.

“We have a highly consumerist society where the festival has become commercialised. Earlier people used to decorate their houses with mango and ‘neem’ leaves which had medicinal properties and purified the air but now, we use plastic leaves,” says Bhargavi. “The festival creates a lot of vibrancy but people are not sensitive about space and the visual pollution that it creates,” says Chandra Shekhar.

Published 12 September 2010, 11:35 IST

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