Have You Bid Farewell to Ganpati Yet?

Image courtesy: Webpothi

Image courtesy: Webpothi

The other day, as I was walking past a street in my neighbourhood, I spied this small, dirty toy. Or so it seemed at first glance. A child’s discard toy, I thought. On my next round, I saw more clearly – it was a mud statue of Lord Ganesha, that must have held the pride of the place in someone’s pooja room last week, was now quietly sitting on a dusty street corner.

Five to ten days after he was feted and made a huge deal of, Lord Ganesha is  ceremoniously bid farewell and dumped ignobly in, forgotten till the festival rolls around the next year. But the impact this festival, that is becoming a larger fiesta year after year, has on the environment is heartrending.

Traditionally, the Ganesha statues and the pooja itself are supposed to be the embodiment of all that is simple and biodegradable. Idols made of clay and items of decor such as grass and flowers of weeds that you normally would not even look at; and at the end of it, the idol is thrown into the household well and becomes one with the earth again. With zero carbon imprint, Lord Ganesha’s birthday used to be a forward-thinking and an eco-friendly festival since anyone can remember.

That is, until the “bigger and better” fever started gripping the nation. Gone are the simple idols made of clay and mud. In its place are the fancy Plaster of Paris models, with their toxic paints. Instead of the small images of the Lord, like some insane muscle-flexing contest, people are vying with one another to create massive statues and erecting them in every street corners. All of this results in bigger fanfare compared to the humble domestic festival. These gigantic statues need massive processions and a ceremonial immersion in the sea or river or whatever is the nearest water body.

The result? The toxic paints wash away and mix with the water, polluting it and killing all the fishes and turtles and other creatures that call it home. That this goes completely against the ethos of the Ganesha Chathurthi seems to have slipped the revellers’ minds, even as they continue trashing the environment year after year.

This year too, is no different. Long before the festival, environmental groups and activists started urging the citizens to be mindful of the world around us and not destroy the water as it is home to plenty of creatures. But, as with every year, those pleas seem to have fallen on deaf ears this time around too, as the photos published in various newspapers show.

Yamuna cries on Ganpati visarjan“, declares TOI. Elsewhere, there were reports of cities immersing their idols in pits  and requesting devotees to stay away from water sources. Goa authorities have ordered water tests to determine the water purity, after the immersion. It is obvious that everyone recognises the practice of the idol immersion is affecting the water bodies and the lives that depend on it. Is enough being done to stop the pollution, to make the practice the environment-friendly activity it once was, is now the question.

What did you do with your idol this year? Did you throw it away, because, let’s face it, our wells are all running dry now? Did you mix it in a bucket of water and use it on your plants? Or did you make one out of chocolate instead, like this lady, and mix it with milk, to feed it to the underprivileged children?

However you bid farewell to Lord Ganesha, we hope you did it without harming the environment!




Time’s Running Out – Or Has It Already?

Time's running out...

Every day, my social media feed is filed with many doom-laden articles, predicting the end of everything as we know it. End of the world. Asteroid crash. Depletion of natural resources. Climate change. Extinction of yet another beautiful animal.

It may sound a bit too doom-and-gloom for many people out there but the reality is that we are on a fast track to the end of days and even doing an about-face at this stage of the game is not going to change the outcome. Rather like termites ripping through the wood they make their homes in, we humans are eating, chewing and spitting out this beautiful world we occupy and we don’t seem too fazed at the thought of the whole thing falling about our ears like a pack of cards.

Along with most natural resources, we are fast running out of clean and safe water. Water is an essential resource. A human will not survive for more than three days without consuming water; at around the fifth day mark, the organs will shut down and that will be it for the person. Still, we don’t seem to be too bothered about this and are happily dumping our raw sewage in clean water sources, polluting the source and the ground water for ever.

We visit a number of housing developments as a part of our job; gated communities housing hundreds of families are our biggest consumer base as they buy tanker loads of water for their daily use and as such, are open to any and all suggestions to keep track of their consumption and bills.

One of the site visits we went to was this beautiful community not too far from a smallish lake, far away from the city centre. It was a picturesque location, one that must have done most of the selling for the builder. What shocked us upon arrival was the information that, despite having a lovely water body on their doorstep, the community still bought their water. Despite having a lake within spitting distance, the residents still paid money and bought water as said water body and the ground water was totally contaminated. 

How did that happen, you ask?

As is typical around these parts, where the government is yet to lay down water and  sewage facilities, tankers carry in water and another lot pump out the sewage and carry them out, to be disposed of safely. Only, safe disposal isn’t really what we’ll call what happens. Many of these tanks carrying raw sewage just drive out far enough to get away from the densely populated areas and dump the contents of their truck in the open. Polluting the water source for ever.

As more and more areas get developed, the once-pristine-now-messed-up-forever areas are slowly becoming sought after locations for building the next new development. With a totally unusable water table. Result? The spanking-new apartment might look over a lake but the water in it is totally unfit and what’s more, pure poison.

This is just one example of what is happening to our surroundings, thanks to the short-sightedness of our fellowmen. What we don’t seem to realise is that our actions have an ever-lasting and long-reaching impact. Let me put it this way: imagine the world as it was when your grandfather was born. Look around you today and try to imagine what it would like when your grandchild takes his first breath.

If he can take breath in the waste land we are leaving him.

Let us try to reduce the rate in which we are going through the vastly limited natural resources. Recycle, reuse. Let us bring down the pollution a few notches. We may have lost the war but we can win a few skirmishes to stem the tide.

Save water. Stop pollution. Be more aware of your actions and their repercussions.