Celebrating an Eco-Friendly Ganesh Chaturthi

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The sheer mention of the words 'Ganesh Chaturthi' creates a colourful visual before our eyes - with images of huge Ganesh idols, people dancing, flowers and sweets. In Maharashtra and other states, many families seat the Ganesh idol in special niches or pandals. This idol lives with the family for a period of one-and-a-half to 11 days, during which time the family treats the idol with utmost respect. But the last day of celebrations is the one that often causes the most damage to the environment. On this day the idols, many made of plaster of Paris (POP), the flowers and thermocol decorations are all immersed in water bodies. The idols are often painted with colours that leach lead into the sea, the flowers come back to the beach with the high tide and the non-biodegradable thermocol is ingested by fish and thus destroys marine life. Isn't it time we started celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi the eco-friendly way?

With an aim to discourage the use of POP idols and bring to light the pollution caused by them, the Young Environmentalists Programme Trust (YEPT) organised an event that taught children how to make eco-friendly Ganesh idols. The idols were made with mud and clay that was collected from the Mithi River and Powai Lake. Elsie Gabriel, founder of YEPT says, "Eco-Ganesh idols are the need of the hour as the idols made out of chemicals threaten the environment and endanger the sea and the fish. The aim of this event was to increase awareness about environmental hazards and thus we used clay and mud from the two sources that are of environmental significance." Many children participated in this event and took back a sculpted ecofriendly idol of Lord Ganesh. Chanchal Malhotra, a student of Gopal Sharma School says, "Eco-friendly Ganesh idols are the best option available and it's time people started using these idols instead of ones that are made out of POP. It is more meaningful to create a joyous festival in an eco-friendly way." 

Artists like Sandeep Manchekar, Vinod Dubey, Shrikant Pardesi, Khushboo Pandit and B R Pandit helped the children shape their idols. B R Pandit is a world-renowned potter who has dedicated almost over 45 years to the art of pottery. Elsie added, "This event also publicised the tradition of pottery and educated children about how potters survived in India by making idols from clay they collected from riverbeds." Talking about the need for more Sarvajanik (community) idols, Amal Sharma, a class 8 student from Don Bosco High School says, "In my colony, many families get together and bring a single Ganesh idol for the entire colony. We celebrate the festival together, making the celebrations a lot more fun and eco-friendly." Many other colonies prefer to immerse their idols in water tanks created especially for this purpose and reuse the thermocol decorations.
 
Still others layer their vermiculture pits with the flowers they use during the 11-day festival, giving their celebrations a complete green touch. Maybe it's time you spoke to your family and friends about going eco-friendly this Ganesh Chaturthi!

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