This year set the trend and ensure you don’t leave debris behind
The sight that greets people every year on Mumbai’s beaches the morning after the Ganesha idols are immersed in the sea is one of broken bits of limbs and trunks. This horror is no match for the devastation consequently set in motion in the sea—a cocktail of toxic paint, thermocol and POP. Let’s promise to make more responsible choices this Ganesh Chaturthi with these simple, impactful and eco-friendly steps:
Choose smaller idols
“The larger the idol, the more chemicals and toxic colouring that go into the sea and wreck our marine eco-system. Choose a size that can be immersed in a bucket of water at home,” says Anand Pendharkar of Sprouts Environment Trust. Also, instead of having an idol in each house, all residents of a housing society can pool their money together and have one idol per apartment premises. Pendharkar has convinced many such societies to scale down their annual Ganesha idol from 8 feet (96 inches) to 9 inches, making for a much more eco-friendly Ganesh Chaturthi!
Opt for idols made from eco-friendly materials
Seeds, mud, clay, straw, paper, grains—it’s well worth searching for idol makers who use eco-friendly materials (and there are many!). Last year, Pendharkar made idols using soy, wheat, corn and spinach, clad in a thin film of clay. When immersed in the sea, the idols disintegrated into fish-friendly food. Sandeep Gajakosh, who works by day at the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), makes idols using paper-mâché, clay, tree glue and white ink powder. The idols may be more expensive than the traditional POP ones, but the difference in cost is not significant enough to leave a dent in your pocket.
Even better, join a workshop and learn to make one yourself. Rintu Kalyani Rathod, a Mumbai-based commercial artist, makes idols with chocolate, to be immersed in milk at home, then distributes the resulting chocolate milk shake to orphanages. She also conducts workshops on idol making. Dattadri Kothur, another artist from Mumbai, conducts workshops on making ‘tree Ganesha’ out of seeds and mud. When immersed in a planter, these idols ultimately grow into saplings.
Use plants, not thermocol, to decorate the pandal
“Instead of expensive bouquets and lights, surround Ganesha with potted plants to create a natural pandal. Light diyas instead of string lights that consume electricity all day. Use your dupattas and saris to decorate the pandal. Be creative!” encourages Rathod.
Look for interactive ways to celebrate an eco-friendly Ganesh Chaturthi!
“Use a mix of comic books, magazines, novels and encyclopaedias. Kids will be tempted to open one and read it. Isn’t that wonderful?” says Pendharkar. You could even place the idol in an orphanage or a care home instead of your own house and thereby really spread the love and goodwill. Be radical in the way you decide to set an example.
“Nirmalya (the flowers that are used to adorn the idols) can have a more meaningful purpose than just being washed up on the beach with plastic,” says Prerna Gupta of Paryay Parisanstha in Pune. “Use them to make compost. You could even get together with other eco-warriors in your neighbourhood and collect Nirmalya from homes and pandals to make a community compost pit.”
Initiate social welfare
Pendharkar reminds us that Ganesh Chaturthi was originally started by Lokmanya Tilak to bring people together and to deepen community ties. “Besides blood and organ donation drives, you could organise informal sessions on health, terrace farming, art and music initiatives. The speakers could include friends or family members instead of paid professionals,” he urges. "Further, instead of keeping the traditional thali for monetary offerings, you could place boxes marked with different causes, so that people can freely donate to a cause of their choice.”
Our eco-friendly Ganesha Chaturthi contact book
· For a fish-friendly Ganesha idol contact Anand Pendharkar of Sprouts Environment Trust on 09820140254.
· For a papier-mâché idol contact Sandeep Gajakosh on 9892174244.
· For an idol made of chocolate, or to learn how to make one, contact Rintu Kalyani Rathod on 09821140286.
· For a tree Ganesha, contact Dattadri Kothur on 8879672071.