Festivals are said to jazz up the life of those who live monotonously, perk up the sullen. But when it also brings with it water, noise and air pollution, I find it hard to imagine how the festivals will continue to do so, when the people it livens up will have to face the consequences of polluting our atmosphere. Public health is a major concern. What are we without us?
Let’s look at the trends of two major festivals in India, Diwali and Ganesh festival. How public attitude has changed over the course of the last few years, how more and more people are adopting eco-friendly ganesh idols, curbing on the use of crackers and loud speakers.
” Central Pollution Control Board reports that the annual immersion of Ganesh idols has significantly increased the content of iron, copper, mercury, chromium and acid in water surrounding Mumbai and other western Indian towns. Equally worrying is how Indian fishing communities often find pieces of once-revered Ganesh idols tangled in their nets, alongside dead mercury-laden fish.” – Guardian, 2010
“The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board has found that there was an increase in several pollutants in water bodies and in respirable suspended particulate matter (PM10) in the air after the Ganesh immersion this year. The rise in water pollution is attributed to immersion of idols made of Plaster of Paris and chemical paints.” – TOI, 2011
“High levels of zinc, calcium and strontium in water are probably due to the immersed idols painted with multicolours. Idol makers should be educated to make their idols small, of non-baked, quick-dissolving clay, and with natural colours used in food products.” – The Hindu, 2012
2013 has seen a lot of awareness with respect to pollution due to festivals, the trend has been a positive one, with people preferring home-made or natural idols over POP ones. The idea is to give back to nature what you took in no harmful way.
” Mandar Marathe, who has been conducting Ganapati-making workshops for the last four years at his Kothrud studio, said there is a 20-fold increase in the number of registrations this year….. “The trend has definitely picked up with each passing year. Modelling your Ganapati idol yourself is also a form of worship. With the rising demand, Marathe has even created online video tutorials too.”- TOI, 2013
How exactly did these idols pollute our water systems?
Plaster of Paris (POP) is not a naturally occurring material and contains gypsum, sulphur, phosphorus and magnesium. The idols take several months to dissolve in water and in the process poison the waters of lake, ponds, rives and seas. The chemical paints used to decorate the Ganesh idol contain mercury, lead, cadmium and carbon and this increases the acidity and heavy metal content in the water.
Oh and the noise?
“Sound pollution peaked towards the tail-end of Ganeshotsav, according to noise monitoring data furnished by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) which conducted a study of 20 locations across the city during a 10-day study.” – TOI, 2013
Hang on. Are we forgetting something? Ah, plastics. All the kinds of plastic that we litter around during the festival, especially at the beach? There are some kind volunteers who help us here.
““We found used plastic glasses; a lot of them. We also came across chappals lying on the shores. Saying that Chowpatty was plainly dirty this morning would be an understatement. You can compare it to Dharavi which is another massively unkept place,” says Nimisha Solanki, a Saafasutra member.” – TOI, 2013
Coming to Diwali, the festival of lights, laddoos, rangolis and so much more. We just love festivals, don’t we?
“The dropping mercury and rising smog have prolonged the deleterious effects of the air pollution generated by Diwali firecrackers, impacting Mumbaikars’ health. Figures from the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board show that nitrogen oxide (NOx) and suspended particulate matter (SPM) levels shot up following Diwali and have continued to remain high. Recordings at Sion revealed NOx levels of 205 micrograms per cubic meter on the day of the festival (November 13) and of 193 units on November 21. – TOI, 2012
Imagine what it does to those who chronically suffer from asthma and related diseases. If not, it has the potential to turn anyone into suffering from this.
At Delhi, the situation has been better.
“Diwali in the city was a greener affair as people burst fewer crackers, leading to a 50-75% decrease in air pollution from last year…. Experts put the cleaner air down to windy weather, inflation and anti-cracker campaigns all working together. “This may be attributed to concerted and sustained anti-firecracker campaigns and active participation of the citizens in the campaigns,” said Keshav Chandra, chairperson, Delhi Pollution Control Board.” – Hindustan Times, 2011
What about noise pollution during Diwali?
“The pollution watchdog had undertaken an impact study of celebration of last Dushera. Ambient noise level monitoring was carried out at various locations of Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Rourkela, Balasore, Berhampur, Keonjhar and Sambalpur towns covering industrial, commercial, residential and silence zones. The results indicated that the noise level during festival period exceeded at all places.” – The Hindu, 2011
The Great Indian Kumbh Mela:
“Pollution levels rose alarmingly in the river Ganges in Allahabad on the first day of the Kumbh Mela festival, according to a study by the state pollution control board.” – BBC, 2013
More awareness, lesser pollution. Situation looks grim, but is improving. It is not just the chemical industry that contributes to pollution, you see?