Ganesh Utsav: 50% immersions in Mumbai done in artificial tanks

Devotees realising the need to keep natural water bodies clean while celebrating the festival with gusto

This is the second year Maharashtra’s popular Ganesh Utsav was celebrated in the shadow of COVID pandemic. The government had released a detailed SOP for celebrating the festival this time which included restrictions on gatherings, processions and even height of the idols. Pic: PTI

About half the Ganesh idols in Mumbai this year were immersed in artificial lakes or tanks.

Around 1.60 lakh Ganesh idols were immersed in the Maharashtra capital this year, against 1.35 lakh immersions last year, about 16% increase, reports The Indian Express quoting Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) statistics.

This year’s data shows that about 80,000 idols out of 1.57 lakh were immersed in artificial tanks. Activists have welcomed the positive change in mindset, calling for all to avoid rivers and sea the next time. Shailesh Nagrale said, “It is good to know that the awareness about pollution caused by immersion to water bodies is reaching far and wide. I am waiting for the day when people stop visiting water bodies for visarjan and complete the rituals at home.”

This is the second year Maharashtra’s popular Ganesh Utsav was celebrated in the shadow of COVID pandemic. The government had released a detailed SOP for celebrating the festival this time which included restrictions on gatherings, processions and even height of the idols.

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On the environmental front, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board had banned plaster of paris (PoP) idols completely and had introduced fine for selling PoP idols anywhere in the state. The BMC had created ‘hauds’ (artifivial tanks) in localities for ‘visarjan’ (immersion).

While a majority of devotees obeyed COVID restrictions, several Ganesh Mandals violated the rules by allowing more number of people to gather.

Days before the Ganesh Utsav, the Uddhav Thackeray government had hinted at re-introducing lockdown, as COVID cases showed slight increase in major cities. However, the decision was put on hold.

On Sunday (September 19), the state recorded 3,413 new cases and 49 deaths, pushing the tally to 65,21,915 and the toll to 1,38,518. Mumbai city recorded 423 cases and five deaths. The state’s case recovery rate stands at 97.16 per cent and the death rate is 2.12 per cent.

Earlier, Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar had urged Mumbaikars to bring their favourite deity home “in a restricted and symbolic manner”. Devotees were also advised to avoid gathering at Ganesh pandals and not to rush towards the sea for immersion.

Also read: Maharashtra: Eco-friendly Ganesh Utsav needs course correction

The Mumbai Police had banned five or more people from gathering at public places from September 10 to 19. Despite restrictions, devotees gathered in large numbers at Girgaon Chowpatty on Sunday. Several cases of violation of COVID restrictions were also reported from Nagpur and Pune among other cities.

PoP or clay idol, which one is environment-friendly?

The Maharashtra government is convinced that idols made of PoP are harmful for the environment, in the sense that they pollute rivers and lakes. In fact, the Nagpur Municipal Corporation is sealing shops that sell PoP idols and have even employed police force to stop those who resist.

Basically, any idol, irrespective of the material used to make it, will eventually pollute water. What matters is the amount of pollution. It may be argued that ‘shadu’ Ganpati is made of nothing but soil (which is not completely true) and so it’s less polluting. But the fact is that a ‘shadu’ Ganpati idol, when immersed in a river or lake, dissolves and the clay settles at the bottom of the water body. A PoP idol, on the other hand, hardly dissolves and floats on the water body after some time, thus can be recovered and reused in construction work.

Also read: Third wave of COVID is already here, says Mumbai mayor after spike in cases

“It is a myth that Ganpati idols made from ‘shadu’ are eco-friendly. The ‘shadu’ clay is extracted from mines in Gujarat, which is not eco-friendly,” says Snehal Jangam, a blogger, who has been campaigning extensively against the misconceptions surrounding eco-friendly Ganesh Utsav.

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