Monday, August 12, 2013

Eco-friendly Ganesh Festival

Thousands of idols made from harmful materials like plaster of paris and toxic metals, coated with deadly paints containing mercury, cadmium, lead and carbon enter our water bodies. These idols, some of them gigantic in size, are immersed in lakes, rivers and the sea.
What actually happens?
Here are the results of a scientific study done on a body of water in Hyderabad, the Hussainsagar Lake. After examining the water before and after immersion the scientists found that the concentration of substances like calcium, magnesium, molybdenum and silicon concentrations increased significantly. Also, it was found that concentrations of heavy metals like arsenic, lead and mercury had increased. Metals like lead and mercury are particularly worrisome as they are dangerous to health and can damage the heart, kidneys, liver, circulatory system and central nervous system.
Besides polluting the water, they reach humans via the food chain, when humans consume fish and other sea-food. If the fish survive that is! Because hundreds of fish are found dead after the immersions.
If people don’t listen, we need the laws
The problem is that politicians don’t want to take tough action as they are afraid of upsetting the public as this is a religious issue. But I think it isn’t. Traditionally, we used mud idols and natural colours. These polluting idols are a modern invention and nothing to do with religion!
No one is banning immersion. Or denouncing it. To put in place laws to make it compulsory to make idols out of an eco-friendly material should not hurt religious sentiment. All we will be doing is going back to the way the festival was traditionally celebrated. An information campaign to this effect will go a long way in educating those who think that using poisonous materials are what God commanded or that this was how it was traditionally done. I am sure that a public information campaign which enumerates the amount of life that is destroyed will impact a lot of dangers to flora and fauna because the idols don’t dissolve. They go to the river bed and affect the plant life.

Say No To Plaster of Paris Ganesh Idols

The environmental hazards caused by Plaster of Paris (POP) Ganesh idols need immediate attention. Hence the awareness for effects of POP idols is of utmost importance.

Quick Facts of Plaster of Paris Ganesh Idols:
  • POP is a building material made from Gypsum which is heated upto 150 deg C. It is used for making casts for broken bones.
  • It is an insoluble powder and forms an impermeable layer on the bottom of pond or lake.
  • The research has found that the oxygen level falls drastically after the Ganesh Idol visarjan on Ganesh Chaturthi.
  • Concentration of substances like calcium, magnesium, silicon and heavy metals like arsenic, lead and mercury had significant increase.
  • Lead used in colour for making POP idol affect heart, kidney, nervous system. Use of lead ranges from 6 to 10 micrograms which should be practically is ZERO.
  • Lakes, rivers where the natural water springs may get blocked with POP deposition and it can also cause decrease in depth of water body.

·         The POP Ganesh idols are destroying the natural acquatic eco system, creating serious ecological imbalance and environmental issue. Plant, fish die in large numbers and affecting human lives.

·         The environmental crisis is due to the non biodegradable materials used for making such idols and also the fact that the number of idols has gone up dramatically over the years implies that the concentration of such materials will increase in our natural resources.

One child per family. One Ganesh idol per colony?
Ganesh Chathurthi, the festival of “the god of every man” that freedom fighter and social reformer ‘Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak reshaped from “a private family celebration into a grand public event”, to stir up nationalist sentiment and has become a game of one-upmanship, as streets, localities, lanes, bylanes, gullies and colonies compete in a gaudy surge of revivalism.

Eco-friendly visarjan turns bigger

The initiative to bid an eco-friendly farewell to Lord Ganesha turned bigger this year. Everyone has to join hands to promote eco-friendly 'visarjan' asking people to immerse Lord Ganesha's idols in clean water tanks instead of dumping it in garbage filled lakes and ponds.

Lets Celebrate  Eco-friendly Ganesh Festival.

Ganesh Festival is one of the main festivals celebrated blissfully and joyfully all over India. Lord Ganesha elephant headed god is believed to be God of power and wisdom. In India, people worship Ganesh before initiating any work. Ganesh Festival is birthday of Lord Ganesh and beautifully decorated idols of different sizes are made for sale by specially skilled artisans. Ganesh festival or Ganesh Chaturthi starts with the installation of these Ganesh statues in colorfully decorated temporary structures in every locality.

The festival is also the time for cultural activities like singing and theater performances, orchestra and community activities. On final day of celebration, Ganesh idol is taken through the streets in a procession accompanied with dancing, singing, and fanfare to be immersed in a river. This is the ritual known as Ganesh Visarjan. All join in this final procession shouting “Ganapati Bappa Morya, Pudhachya Varshi Laukar ya” (means O lord Ganesha, come again early next year).

Tips for Eco Friendly Ganesh Festival

Everybody loves to decorate Ganesh idols beautifully and celebrate Ganesh festival with great zeal. But the most serious impact of the Ganesh festival on environment is due to the immersion of idols. The immersion of idols made out of chemical materials causes significant water pollution. The use of thermocol and plastic in pandals as well as for garlands and other decorations increases non biodegradable waste. The toxic waste from these materials kills plant and animal life in the water bodies. Celebrating eco-friendly Ganesh festival enables you to celebrate festival grandly without harming environment and other living beings. Following are some useful tips for celebrating eco-friendly Ganesh festival.

· Use Eco Friendly Ganesh idol: As going green is the new mantra, say no to idols made of chemical, Plaster of paris, clay, plastic, thermocol (polystyrene). Opt for natural, biodegradable material so that after immersions (visarjan) it does not pollute water and surroundings. Natural products can be used to make the idol such as unbaked clay, coconut, paint with natural colours, etc.

· Limit Size and number of Ganesh Idols in your community: Bigger size idols take much space. The height of the Ganesh idol should be limited maximum to 5 feet or 1.5 meters. Rather than keeping the idol for exhibition, the rituals of the festival should be performed properly. Huge idols also consume more clay or POP for its making, adding more waste to environment. It is difficult for immersion also as it takes time for dissolving in water and sometimes it does not dissolve completely hurting people’s sentiments. It also leads to traffic congestion and difficult to transport.

Save Energy: Switch on decorative lights during the “aarti” or “pooja” and evenings only when necessary. Replace traditional bulbs such as incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lights (CFL).Use energy efficient CFL tubes instead of bulbs to save electricity. Coloured papers can also be wrapped on bulbs to give more colours rather than buying expensive bulbs.

· Natural colors for Rangoli: Use natural biodegradable colours for making Rangoli such as turmeric, henna, mehendi, rice powder, gulaal. Such colours do not pose a threat to human health and do not affect the environment also.

· Eco friendly Decoration: In festivals people generally use plastic and non-degradable material. These materials add more danger to our environment when dumped as garbage later. You can use instead paper flowers or natural flowers for decoration. Natural materials like cloth, wood, paper can be used to make dolls, puppets, and bells to decorate around Ganpati idol. Make beautiful paper decoration instead of thermocol, which is also not degradable.

· Ban Plastic: Offerings, Prasad, fruits which are carried to pandals are thrown here and there as garbage. Nobody takes care of that and it pollutes the environment. So Say No to Plastic Bags. Instead cloth bags can be encouraged which is very comfortable to carry, biodegradable and can be reused later. Discourage the use of Plastic Bags for disposing “Nirmalya” and other offerings and these should be disposed in a paper bag. Use natural plates like banana leaves instead of plastic plates for distributing Prasad. Disposable, non biodegradable plates, plastic sheets etc affect the environment.

· Refrain from Noise Pollution: Avoid playing loud music which might create disturbance to others. Mridangam, Tabla and such low sound instruments can be used instead. Loudspeakers can create problem to hospitals, old age homes, and educational institutes. Speakers and microphones should be played between 6am and 10pm and people should abide by the rules. Avoid bursting firecrackers. Firecrackers will also affect the hearing of small children as well as aged people of the community. There is no rule as such to burst crackers. Firecrackers emit fumes which are harmful to health. They pose a threat to patients and public health.

· Limit number of public pandals: More pandals means more noise more pollution and more dumped garbage. Instead of celebrating the same festivals at different pandals, make a huge pandal in the community and all the community members and people from neighborhoods can come and jointly celebrate the festival which will also reduce the number of immersions at the later stage.

· Artificial immersion tank: The same water body used for immersion will be used for irrigation or drinking purpose which might cause health hazards later. Use can use artificial tank or artificial immersion tank instead of natural water source like river, lake or pond.

· Awareness on Green Ganesh or Eco-friendly Ganesh: Understand the concept of the Ganesh festival in its true sense and its effects on our Mother Nature. More and more eco friendly ways should be developed and awareness should be spread among people. Prizes should be distributed to communities who promote eco friendly ways of celebrating festivals which will encourage others. Posters and videos can be shown among apartments sharing knowledge about eco friendly ways. Awareness drives and workshops should be conducted.

· Compost pit for organic material: Collect separately after the festivals, the offerings of flowers, garlands often called “Nirmalya” and other organic material and put them in a community built compost pit. This compost material can be used to fertilize your garden. If you must immerse them, wrap them in newspapers instead of polythene bags as paper is biodegradable. Dried flowers can be used later to make natural colours or decorative paper for gifts.

· Symbolic immersion: Instead of immersing Ganesh idol in a water body, it can be symbolically immersed at home. Some people use a metal or stone idol and 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 for the next year. A betel nut in place of the actual idol can be immersed in a bucket of water. Another way of immersion can be sprinkling a few drops of water on the idol and then wiping it off and keeping it for next year’s use.

· 3Rs-Reduce, Reuse and Recycle: There are three key factors when thinking about how to recycle – The 3 R’s. The three R’s – reduce, reuse and recycle – all help to cut down on the amount of waste we throw away. Reduce is best way to manage waste. Reuse products in different ways. Recycling the Ganesh festival flowers and festival leftovers is another way to manage waste. Make natural color from flowers such as marigold and other festival leftovers can be used to make compost.

· Ban Ganesha made of Plaster of Paris or hazardous chemicals: Ensure this Ganesh Festival, your apartment community or neighborhoods buy Green Ganesha and ensure you support or ban Plaster of Paris (PoP) Idols or idols made of hazardous chemical. These materials add up more damage to the environment. Spread awareness on the use of eco ganesha and drawbacks of hazardous chemicals and its effects on environment.

· Form a group or team for celebrating Eco Friendly Ganesh festival in your neighborhood: Spread awareness by forming a group or a team in your community. Teach your younger generation and others the good effects of celebrating eco friendly Ganesh Festival.

Enjoy Ganesh Chaturthi but also respect the nature. Encourage people to use environmentally safe idols and decoration. Collect offerings of flowers and other organic material and put them in a compost pit for fertilizing your garden.


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