September 1, 2011

Commercialization of Ganesh Chaturthi

When a festival that helped India kick British asses & achieve Independence becomes an environmental disaster.

The most serious impact of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival on the natural environment is due to the immersion of icons made of Plaster of Paris into lakes, rivers and the sea. Traditionally, Lord Ganesh's statue was sculpted out of earth taken from nearby one’s home. After worshipping the divinity in this earth icon, it was returned back to the Earth by immersing it in a nearby water body. This represented the universal cycle of creation and dissolution in Nature.

However, as the production of Ganesh icons on a commercial basis grew, the earthen or natural clay was replaced by Plaster of Paris. Plaster is a man made material, easier to mould, lighter and less expensive than clay. However, PoP takes much longer to dissolve and in the process of dissolution releases toxic elements into the water body. The chemical paints used to adorn these statues made of PoP themselves contain heavy metals like mercury and cadmium.

On the final day of the Ganesh festival thousands of plaster statues are immersed into water bodies by devotees. These increase the level of acidity in the water and the content of heavy metals. The day after the immersion, thousands of dead fish can be seen floating on the surface of the water body as a result of this sudden increase.



Several non governmental and governmental bodies have been addressing this issue. Amongst the solutions proposed by various groups some are as follows:
  • Return to the traditional use of natural clay icons and immerse the icon in a bucket of water at home.
  • Use of a permanent icon made of stone and brass, used every year and a symbolic immersion only.
  • Recycling of plaster icons to repaint them and use them again the following year.
  • Ban on the immersion of plaster icons into lakes, rivers and the sea.
  • Creative use of other biodegradable materials such as paper mache to create Ganesh icons.
  • Encouraging people to immerse the icons in tanks of water rather than in natural water bodies.
Please do not use Plaster statues this Ganesh Chaturthi, I am sure Ganesh ji won't be happy with his devotees for destroying the Earth.




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