Durga Puja idols remain submerged in Dhansiri
Eastern Mirror Desk
Dimapur, Oct. 22: In what could cause environmental hazard to the already polluted commercial hub of Nagaland, the remnants of 41-odd idols of goddess Durga that were immersed at the Dhansiri River in Purana Bazaar, Dimapur, during the Durga Puja festival on Friday, October 19 still remain submerged in the river for days with the authorities yet to fish them out.
As part of the ritual on the occasion of Dashami or the last day of Durga Puja festival, devotees immerse idols of goddess Durga in the river after a procession.
The deputy commissioner of Dimapur, Sushil Kumar Patel, on Monday told Eastern Mirror over telephone that he had instructed the Dimapur Municipal Council (DMC) to take responsibility of cleaning the river and assured that they would definitely inspect the river on Tuesday Oct. 22. He also reminded that some non-governmental organisations took up cleanliness drive of the Dhansiri River last year after the Durga Puja festival.
Eastern Mirror made several attempts to speak to DMC officials on this matter but they could not be reached (did not attend to our phone call).
How idols pollute water bodies and environment
Emersion of idols in rivers is a huge environmental concern even if the remnants are removed as the chemicals that get dissolved in the river will lead to significant alteration in the water quality. Most Indian cities have dedicated ponds and lakes for emersion of idols and they are fished out after the rituals are done to ensure that it do not contaminate the water.
According to a report by IAS Score, idols are generally made with plaster of paris, clay, cloths, small iron rods, bamboo, and several other materials besides decorating with different paints such as varnish and water colours. Heavy metals such as lead and chromium are also added to the water bodies in the form of Sindoor, a traditional red-coloured cosmetic powder usually worn by married women and often used during festivals. This increases concentration of acidity and heavy metal.
Heavy metal pollution caused by idol immersion can damage the ecosystem as it kills fish and plants, and blocks the natural flow of water. This danger has been observed in several water bodies in India like Bhoj wetland; Budhabalanga River; Ganges River; Hussainsagar Lake; Kolar River; Sarayu River; Tapi River; Chhatri Lake; north and west lakes of Bengaluru; and Yamuna River.
A study by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on the “Impacts of Dussehra festival on the River Hooghly’ has shown that every year, at least 15, 000 idols of goddess Durga are immersed in the Hooghly River alone, releasing 16.8 tonnes of varnish and garjan oil and 32 tonnes of colours into the water. These colours contain a good dose of heavy metals like manganese, lead, mercury, and chromium. The study also found that during Dusshera, oil and grease in the river increases by 0.99 milligram per litre (mg/l) and the concentration of heavy metals increases by 0.104 mg/l.
This is what CPCB has to say through its ‘General guideline for idol immersion’ which was released a few years ago:
- Idols should be made from natural materials as described in the holy scriptures. Use of traditional clay for idol making rather than baked clay, plaster of paris, etc. may be encouraged, allowed, and promoted.
- Painting of idols should be discouraged. In case idols are to be painted, water soluble and nontoxic natural dyes should be used. Use of toxic and non-biodegradable chemical dyes should be strictly prohibited.
- Worship material like flowers, vastras (clothes), decorating material (made of paper and plastic) etc. should be removed before immersion of idols. Biodegradable materials should be collected separately for recycling or composting. Non-biodegradable materials should be collected separately for disposal in sanitary landfills. Clothes may be sent to local orphan houses.
- Public should be educated on ill effects of immersion in the water bodies through mass awareness programmes.
- The ‘idol immersion points’ shall be cordoned and barricaded. Synthetic liner may be placed in the bottom, well in advance. The said liner shall be removed on completion of immersion ceremony so that remains of idols could be brought to the bank. Bamboo and wooden logs, if any, could be reused. Clay and other material used in making the idols may be taken to sanitary land fill for disposal.
If implemented, these guidelines can help in bringing tremendous change in the quality of water bodies post idol immersion. Debris can be collected and measures can be taken to prevent further deterioration of rivers during immersion time.
It may be mentioned that the Pune municipal corporation has successfully convinced the people not to immerse the ‘nirmalya’ (remnants from an offering to a deity) into the water. Instead, they have installed large bins in the shape of traditional pots or ‘kalashes’ so that people can dump ‘nirmalya’ there. While this is a good step, the appropriate management of the ‘nirmalya’ is still crucial considering the volume collected every year.
It is to be seen if the DMC too will come up with a strategic mechanism to control contamination of river waters by idols in Dimapur.