Eco-friendly is the word today — be it Ganapati, Diwali, Holi or Eid. Everyone wants to go eco-friendly. Everyone, really? While we speak of making clay idols, and using eco-friendly decoration material and nature-friendly immersion techniques, most of this is often limited to household celebrations. What about the pandals and their giant idols that go into the water bodies every year? And what about the loudspeakers put up outside each of these pandals, even if there is not a single soul inside?
Pune, Mumbai, or Nashik — no one city can be pinpointed. The situation is similar everywhere, be it noise, water or soil pollution, that goes up immensely during festivals, which are in abundance in India. While water and soil pollution is evident during Ganapati, noise pollution is often ignored by the authorities. According to data by Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, noise levels have gone up from an average 76.9 decibels recorded on the tenth day of Ganapati in 2012 to the 102.3 decibels recorded on the same day in 2015 in Pune. Anything beyond 85 dB is severely harmful for the human ear, but we tend to forget all of that science when it comes to our gods and faiths. Some non-governmental organisations (NGOs), however, like every year, have been doing their best to create environmental awareness at whatever level they can.
A FEW STEPS FORWARD
Sheila Christian of National Society for Clean Cities (NSCC), Pune, has been one such active member. “Apart from the usual idol-making workshops and eco-friendly decoration tips, this year we are also disseminating information ourselves, especially regarding noise pollution. Instead of constantly going to the police and making complaints, we are spreading information through the several mohalla committee groups.”
She says that a number of poems and songs are being used so that the message reaches people. Giving an example, she narrates a poem that talks about Ganapati’s argument with Bal Gangadhar Tilak, who initiated the public celebration of Ganesha. “Why did you get me out of the home? Initially, I used to love the simple flower decorations and the lamps you lit around me. Now, I sweat with the artificial lighting and the deafening songs,” Ganesha asks Tilak in some of the poems circulated on Whatsapp groups.
As for the civic body, ammonium bicarbonate is being distributed to various mandals across the city. When this chemical is mixed in immersion tanks, the PoP gets dissolved in 48 hours. The chemical process takes place and the sludge (calcium carbonate and liquid ammonium sulphate) can be used for other purposes like preparing chalks, and ammonium sulphate as fertiliser.
“We hope to bring down water pollution this way. Apart from this, the usual steps too have been taken, like installing nirmalya pots around all immersion ghats across the city. We have also conducted promotions for clay idols well before the festival began,” explains Sampatrao Dighe, Environment Officer, Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC).
The PMC, however, had no answers when asked about steps taken to reduce the noise pollution level. It is up to the police to control speaker timings and so on, the civic body believes.
Some mandals have taken it upon themselves though to make celebrations more nature and human-friendly. “We do not have songs playing on speakers at all. We only play the aarti twice a day and that’s it,” says Prithviraj Pardeshi of Guruji Talim Ganapati in the city. “The main puja idol too is made of shaadu and we are going to immerse it in a well and not in the river. The decoration is mostly made of wood and very little thermocol has been used,” he adds.
While radio ads, newspaper stories and various NGOs shout eco-friendly slogans and urge people to stick to them, what we need is a collective desire — at the individual and governing body level — to make festivals simpler and more enjoyable.
Unless mass celebrations turn eco-friendly, not much can be achieved. Beyond our homes, Ganapati festival needs to be celebrated in a nature-friendly on the streets too.