Sabyasachi Patra

Religion Vs Environment

Religion Vs Environment

The festival season is upon us. Millions of Indians, from all walks of life, participate in these festivals. In Bengal and Odisha, Durga puja is celebrated in a grand scale. Similarly anyone who has visited Bombay, Pune or any parts of Maharashtra, would know how grand the Ganapati celebrations are.


These festivals are conducted in a grand scale. People from all strata participate with enthusiasm starting from collecting monetary contributions, idol making, erecting the “pandals” in public places, decorations etc etc. It increases bonding among people. Wayback, in 1910, Lokamanya Tilak, had observed the Durga Puja celebrations in Calcutta and had realized its potential for increasing bonding among people. He had realized that to take on the might of the British rule, the comman man need to be mobilsed. So he had urged people to celebrate Ganesh Puja in Maharashtra. Ganesh Puja or Ganpati as it is known locally, has assumed mammoth proportions, and is celebrated in a massive scale. You would find an idol of Lord Ganesh in every lane during the festival.


Pollution due to immersion of idols


After the Ganesh Puja and the Durga Puja, the idols are taken to a river or sea or nearby tank and immersed in water. During my childhood days, I used to watch the idols being made of clay, straw, bamboo etc. and then finally they are painted. In earlier days, our painters used to use paints made out of vegetable and other organic matter. However, today the paints are very toxic. And together with the explosion of the population, the number of idols have also increased in an exponential manner. So it has been very difficult for the rivers and sea and other water bodies to handle this increased number of idols as well as the toxic and non-biodegradable material being used these days. I am sure, most of you would find reports of fish dying in lakes and rivers after immersion either due to the oxygen content in the water going down or due to toxic chemicals.


We have already turned some of our rivers into gutters. The residents of Delhi can immediately relate to the present state of the river Jamuna. These rivers actually stink and it becomes unbearable when you are passing over the bridge on these rivers. A question comes to my mind. Do our Gods deserve to be immersed in gutters like Jamuna river and other rivers that have met the same fate?


Edit: While shooting for a documentary on Thane Creek, I saw the creek covered with a black film like coating after the Ganesha iold immersions. It took two days for the dark coating to get cleared. And then for several weeks I saw Ganesha idols made of PoP (Plaster of paris) lying in the creek amidst all the filth and excreta. My heart sank. Do we want our Gods to face this fate? Think! Act!

Crows on Non biodegradable idols of Lord Ganesha

Crows on Non biodegradable idols of Lord Ganesha


Action by Citizens:

As concerned citizens, we can take the following steps to improve the situation.


  • We can urge our local Puja committees or organizers to use biodegradable material and organic colours for the idols.
  • We can consider immersing the idols in specially created temporary water tanks, so that toxic sludge can then be disposed safely.
  • Urge the Central Government and State Governments to ban idols made of PoP (plaster of paris) as those are non-biodegradable.
  • If you are donating to your local puja committees then insist that your donation is tied up with shifting to bio-degradable idols.
  • Spread the awareness among people so that the burden can be reduced.
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