Offering an alternative to Plaster of Paris (PoP), a city-based group has introduced seed balls in Ganesh idols this year that can grow into plants post immersion while keeping its five-year long tradition of sculpting nine-inch clay idols vegetarian fish food.
Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations begin on August 22.
From 2015 onwards, Sprouts Environment Trust through its ‘God Save the Ocean’ campaign used corn and vegetable powder — ingredients that can easily decompose in water and get consumed by marine organisms — coloured with organic substances such as turmeric, chandan and geru (coloured soil) in their attempt to protect the aquatic biodiversity.
This year they decided to use seed balls – Kachnar (Bauhinia variegata), climbers, and smaller grass seeds – in the idols that can be immersed in small pots that can grow into plants.
Devotees can choose between buying an idol with fish food or seed balls. “We introduced seed balls inside the idol’s belly because many people will not be going for immersions to artificial ponds or natural sites due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Anand Pendharkar, founder, Sprouts Environment Trust adding, “As ecologists, our idea is to protect the rich marine biodiversity along Mumbai’s coast. Our concern was that actions of PoP and hazardous colours should not continue causing damages. By providing an eco-friendly alternative, we intend on making citizens aware that they switch to idols at the same cost price as PoP.”
The group has made about 40 idols this year with more than 70% already booked.
The group has made about 40 idols this year with more than 70% already booked. It costs Rs. 800 to make the idols and they sell it at Rs. 1,500. A few large societies that already booked the idols were previously using 5-6 foot PoP idols. However, considering the environmental benefits they have opted for the nine-inch ones this year ending up saving a lot of money, said Pendharkar adding, “Not only have we faced the problem of limited material resources this year but we are a group of only four people who made the idols. Our original group of 10-12 could not make it owing to transport restrictions during the pandemic. What’s worse, many of our team members lost their jobs. We will be contributing our earnings to them.”
Meanwhile, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said they had increased the number of artificial immersion sites in the city from 32 to 167 in their attempt to decongest natural sites like beaches, rivers, and lakes.
“The sites will be located either inside societies, open spaces, any other areas that voluntarily opt for setting up artificial immersion structures. The regulation is a 4-foot idol for Sarvajanik and less than 2-foot idols for households this year,” said Narendra Barde, joint municipal commissioner (zone II), BMC.
Following a ban by the Central Pollution Control Board on PoP idols earlier this year which was lifted by Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar on May 22, a number of idol makers had switched to clay and paper to ensure their idols are bought, said Naresh Dahibhavkar, president, Brihanmumbai Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Samanvay Samiti.
“According to our assessment, the city wide coverage of around 12,000 (sarvajanik) idols, there are close to 7,000 eco-friendly clay idols, paper mache, red clay, and PoP. However, there is a huge demand for ‘Tree Ganesha’ idols which could become the prevalent idol following the implementation of the ban from 2021,” he said.
An eco-friendly Ganesh idol costs Rs. 800 to make, and is sold at Rs. 1,500.
ANTI CORONA SQUADS SET UP AT EACH WARD
The umbrella body of Ganesh mandals in the city – Brihanmumbai Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Samanvay Samiti – has recruited 475 volunteers to ensure smooth operations during the 10-day festival. Each ward will have these teams not only to help those stepping out to visit a mandal but also assist the civic body, police department and local hospitals to help arrange medical facilities for any Covid-19 related cases. The groups will help containment zones in ensuring a risk free immersion and also provide assistance in the form of live streaming of prayer processions on social media and access to citizens that continue to stay at home. A list of their responsibilities have been shared with the police and BMC.