Immersion of 'Durga Puja' idols raises environmentalists' hackles

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Varanasi/ West Bengal, Oct 11 : With the immersion of the idols of deities on the last day of 'Durga Puja', environmentalists are worried that the river waters will take yet another drubbing.

The banks of the river Ganga in Varanasi were abuzz with devotees beating drums, dancing and singing hymns while bidding farewell to Goddess Durga.

Amidst the large-scale immersions, a large number flower garlands, weapons of the idols were consigned to river waters least mindful of pollution that it would cause.

"I think people should be aware that the Ganga needs to be treated with respect that it deserves. It is the mother of culture of India and people worship the Ganga. They want to drink its water, bathe in it but why throw all the garbage," said Mario, a visitor.

The idols, which are usually made of Plaster of Paris, clay and bamboo, are painted with colours and dyes that are toxic. Moreover, the decomposition of these idols leads to rising levels of biological oxygen demand (BOD) in the river water.

Despite measures by authorities in Kolkata to ensure proper disposal of the accessories the situation was no better.

"We have arranged for cages on both side of these ghats. We have our volunteers who will approach those coming for immersion of idols not to throw flowers or other articles or belongings of idols in the water of Ganga," said Fayaz Ahemed Khan, Counselor, Kolkatta Municipal Corporation.

Enclosures for dumping flowers and various articles of the idols that were put up on the banks of the river Hooghly in the metropolis, however, did not prove effective.

Though the pollution control board has laid down certain norms for the immersion of the idols, no concrete results have been achieved yet.

The repeated warnings of ecologists and environmentalists about the possible hazards of the use of Plaster of Paris in making idols have fallen into the deaf ears of the idol makers and buyers. Plaster of Paris does not dissolve fast in water.

Moreover, metals like lead and chromium used in colours for decorating the idols are not easily assimilated in an aquatic environment and usually lead to destruction of aquatic flora and fauna. Lead pollution is dangerous for humans also.

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