Yet another year of Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations has gone by and with it, more than 30,000 idols and statues into our water bodies. The ever-present concern of using Plaster of Paris to make these idols has gone up a notch this time with it being banned in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Despite this, there has been no change whatsoever in regards to the making and sale of the statues due to the manufacturers blatantly ignoring the ban.
Clay was initially used to make the idols and statues but over the years, those made of Plaster of Paris have come into light owing to them being more attractive, inexpensive and lighter. The repercussions of using PoP are more in number and far more dangerous to marine life as well as the environment. Unfortunately, a blind eye is being turned to this pressing issue.
Plaster of Paris contains silica which is hazardous if inhaled. People working with powdered PoP are prone to cancer while working long hours with the material. In addition to this, idols made of PoP are painted with highly toxic paints which contain mercury and lead. The paints dissolve in water bodies and not just kill aquatic life, but also endanger the lives of people who consume the fishes. Furthermore, the idols do not dissolve in water for months and float around, thereby choking the rivers and other water bodies. Sometimes, these idols, when found in water, are heaped together and crushed under a heavy vehicle to turn them into dust. Is that fitting for the deity? Its farewell needs to be treated with as much reverence as when it is being brought home.
To promote the use of clay idols, the Women Entrepreneurs Belgavi(WEB) Association has started a new project, EcoGanesha. Their idols come with pots and have tomato and basil seeds at the bottom such that after the Ganesha dissolves, the seeds give way to plant life. All one needs to do is water the idol after the celebrations and watch as it makes way to beautiful plants. The project has received recognition for its innovative idea and is slowing becoming popular among the masses.
All in all, change starts small. It starts from home. So next year, let us all vow to go eco-friendly!
Image : Harshitha