Festivals jazz up lives of those who live monotonously and perk up the sullen. However, it also brings with it water, noise and air pollution. I find it hard to imagine the sustenance of its positive impact when the people it livens up will have to face the consequences of polluting our atmosphere. Public and animal health is a major concern. Imagine what it does to those who chronically suffer from asthma and related diseases. Imagine the birds and the animals that cannot complain. If not, it has the potential to turn anyone into suffering from this. What are we without us?
Looking at the trends of two major festivals in India, Diwali and Ganesh festival, we see 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. State Pollution Control Boards also are monitoring the state of our environment during festivals. Situation looks grim, but is improving. It is not just the chemical industry that contributes to pollution, you see?
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 lakes, ponds, rivers 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.
2008: Goa’s Department of Science, Technology & Environment banned the manufacture, import and sale of PoP idols in 2008. In Goa, the state-owned GHRSSIDC incentivises Ganesh chitrashallas (as the manufacturing units are called) to not use materials harmful to the environment by giving them a subsidy of ₹100 a clay idol. – The Hindu.
2010: Central Pollution Control Board finds high levels of iron, copper, mercury, chromium and acid in water surrounding Mumbai and other western Indian towns. Indian fishing communities find pieces of once-revered Ganesh idols tangled in their nets, alongside dead mercury-laden fish. – Guardian.
2011: Maharashtra Pollution Control Board finds high levels of pollutants in water bodies and particulate matter (PM10) in the air after the Ganesh immersion. TOI.
2012: High levels of zinc, calcium and strontium in water found. – The Hindu.
2013: This year 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 conducts Ganapati-making workshops at his Kothrud studio, sees a 20-fold increase in the number of registrations this year.” TOI. MPCB finds sound pollution peaking towards the tail-end of Ganeshotsav, over 20 locations across the city during a 10-day study- TOI. Litter such as plastic glasses, chappals, found. – TOI.
2014: City of Mumbai is encouraging its residents to purchase eco-friendly clay Ganesha idols. – Digital Journal. Reports of the regional office of the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) show no deterioration in the quality of river water during the Ganesh festival. – TOI. Water samples collected by the Goa state pollution control board (GSPCB) across the state, indicate no water pollution, pre and post Ganesh immersion. – TOI. Post-visarjan, BMC starts composting ‘nirmalya’ waste. – The Indian Express. Ranchi remains disinterested in environmental friendly activities. – TOI.
2015: Policy makes it mandatory for all the mandals to display the phone numbers of competent authorities to complain about noise pollution and other forms of nuisance. Ganesh mandal welcomes Mumbai civic body conditions. – TOI.
2016: River Yamuna’s dissolved oxygen levels plummeted to below zero after Vijay Dashami, and a post-immersion report released by Delhi Pollution Control Committee disclosed that the biological oxygen demand, a measure of organic pollution, was alarmingly high at all ghats, well past the standard of 3 mg/l for waterbodies. – TOI.
2017: Ganesha Puja kit invented using clay and organic colors. School children found innovative ways to create Ganesh idols. Celebrities celebrate the festival in an eco-friendly way. Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) has directed deputy commissioners of all districts and panchayat development officers to ensure complete ban on use of idols made from Plaster of Paris (PoP). – The New Indian Express. DJ systems have banned as part of ensuing Ganesh festivities in Adilabad district. – The Hindu. Enforcement to ensure reduction in noise pollution remains weak, High Court had passed several orders to ensure strict implementation of the provisions of the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000. – The Indian Express.
2011: Experts at Delhi Pollution Control Board found 50-75% decrease in air pollution from last year owing to windy weather, inflation and anti-cracker campaigns. – Hindustan Times. “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.
2012: Maharashtra Pollution Control Board finds 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.
2016: For the first time in many years, firecrackers which will be sold in Nagpur, are within the permissible sound limit. – TOI. Vijayawada city witnessed muted Diwali celebrations. – The Indian Express. Police enforce a complete ban on sale of crackers causing noise pollution in Cuttack. – TOI.
2017: Students celebrate Green Diwali. – TOI. Noise and pollution remain low in Mangaluru and Bengaluru. – TOI, TOI. Pollution stays low, but noise is still high in Nagpur. – TOI. The Punjab Pollution Control Board has issued directions to all districts to observe a clean Diwali, no firecrackers after 10pm. – TOI. SC bans the sale of fireworks in Delhi and NCR. – TOI. Centre-notified Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) creates “confusion” among the implementing agencies. – The Hindu.
The Great Indian Kumbh Mela:
2013: State pollution control board finds pollution levels rise alarmingly in the river Ganges in Allahabad on the first day of the Kumbh Mela festival. – BBC. Bio toilets fail in Kumbh Mela inspite of expert warnings. – Sify.
2015: A sewage treatment plant (STP) installed to treat the sewage before it is released in the Godavari works intermittently and untreated waste enters the river. – The Indian Express.
2017: Kumbh gets UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage tag. – TOI. River Godavari is once again filled with drainage, sewage and other waste, bringing the focus once again to the cleanliness issues marring the holy waters. – TOI.
Last Edited: January 8 2018