The ritual of Visarjan of Ganesh idols during Ganesh Chaturthi is a grant event where huge idols of Lord Ganesha are immersed in water. The Ganesh idols are carried in a large procession accompanied by music, dance and divine chanting and taken to rivers, lakes, or ponds for immersion. Usually most of these idols are made of Plaster of Paris which is cheap and easy to shape into idols, however its use has been banned in most of the places because of its harmful effects on aquatic life. The impact of Ganesha Visarjan on the environment has proved to be extremely negative.
Harmful Effects of Non-Biodegradable Materials for Making Idols:
1) Plaster Of Paris: It is a substance produced by calcification of gypsum. By mixing with water it can be brought into the desired flexibility and can be easily converted into desired shapes. Compared to most of the bio-degradable materials it is cheaper and easier to handle, but it is harmful to the environment. It increases the quantity of metals, mud and solids in water which produces damages to aquatic life.
2) Decoration Elements: Decorative items such as paint, cosmetics, clothes, ornaments, etc. increase the quantity of trace elements like mercury, chromium, zinc, lead, iron and arsenic and also organic & inorganic matter, metalloids, grease, oil and many more. Because of these, the aquatic ecosystems are negatively affected.
3) Flowers and Oily Substances: These substances increase the content of organic and inorganic matter in water and cause water pollution.
4) Beauty Articles and Bamboo Sticks: The big items collect together and interrupt the water flow whereas smaller particles keep flowing and settle at the bottom, thereby producing waste and water pollution.
5) Plastic and Polythene Bags and Similar Items: These are very dangerous materials that threaten aquatic life.
6) Edibles: Because of these substances, the grease, oil and the organic content in water increase, thus causing damages to aquatic life.
Measures Taken to Create Awareness about Environmental Pollution:
1) Because of the environmental issues of Ganesha visarjan, Plaster of Paris idols are banned in in the states of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Goa and Gujarat.
2) Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board has undertaken the initiatives to produce clay idols in Hyderabad.
3) Together with the banning of Plaster of Paris idols, the Goan government has advised the devotees to go for clay idols so as to reduce negative environmental impact of Ganesha visarjan.
4) Several non-governmental organizations have taken sincere efforts to encourage devotees to use idols made of traditional clay, metal or brass. Clay idols do not harm the environment, and the metal idols can be immersed in a bucket of water at home instead of drowning in river.
5) Nowadays, the practice of symbolical immersion is increasing, where water is sprinkled on the idol symbolically instead of literally immersing it in water body. Visarjan of idols made of stone, brass and metals is done in this manner.
6) Another practice is to eliminate drowning of Plaster of Paris idols, and repainting and reusing them every year.
7) Several government and non-government organizations create awareness of making Ganesha idols with bio-degradable materials like coconuts, papier mache, turmeric, clay, etc.
Ganesha Visarjan has major environmental impacts that affect the aquatic life of the country extensively. As a responsible citizen of the country, it is our duty to follow some of the measures specified above to protect aquatic life and maintain the ecological balance of nature.