While in the confrontation between tradition and environment-friendliness the former seems to have emerged victorious, Pune has lost the war. Idols of Ganesha, prayed to with great reverence by thousands in the city till a few days ago are lying scattered after the waters receded at Omkareshwar Ghat and underGarware Bridge.
The idols made of plaster of Paris (PoP) are insoluble and have flown downstream only to get surrounded by heaps of garbage over the past many days. Civic officials claim that the statues will be immersed again at a spot where water is adequate. But these superficial measures offer no guarantee that this unpleasant sight would not recur.
While many NGOs and people-founded trusts urged citizens to opt for eco-friendly ways, religious groups like Hindu Janajagruti Samiti asked devotees to immerse their idols in flowing water. But volunteers of this group have no answers to offer now as the damaged statues have accumulated at one of the Ghats where last rites are conducted.
While explaining the logic of immersion in PMC-built tanks, civic officials themselves were clueless about what to do with the piled-up idols. Joint municipal commissioner Suresh Jagtap said, “Every year there is a big question in front of the PMC over these statues. This year numerous idols were immersed in the river, many of which we are immersing into deeper water.
But, nearly 2 lakh idols have also collected in the tanks built by PMC and other organisations. Many of these are thrown into the quarry or even buried in a pit alongside the river. But the decision over whether to recycle them or not is yet to be taken.” When questioned why only the idols are asked to be immersed in flowing water and not the ‘nirmalya’, Parag Gokhale of Hindu Janajagruti Samiti could not find an appropriate answer.
“We have asked the devotees to do the visarjan in the flowing water. They can give away the nirmalya to the cleaners if they want as the Lord’s idol holds more importance,” he said. He also took a dig at PMC, saying, “The civic body itself has disposed of the idols collected through eco-friendly ways back into the river. Also, many idols are still lying unattended in these tanks across the city. What is PMC doing about this?”
Pune Municipal Corporation’s (PMC) joint scheme with social organisations like SWaCH and citizens received good response. 125 waste pickers, with the support of 400 volunteers and about 100 college and school students, diverted over 97 tonnes of nirmalya (waste comprising paper, plastic, thermocol, flowers, coconuts, fruits and clothes) from the city’s rivers. Over two lakh idols were immersed at civic facilities and PMC-built tanks out of the 3.57 lakh immersed in the city. PMC had put up garbage containers at 99 locations in addition to 97 specially-designed containers across the city. The civic administration collected 432 tonnes of waste at the immersion locations and it includes citizens’ participation in collection of 97 tonnes of nirmalya before it could pollute the water body. This year, biodegradable nirmalya has been sent to various locations for composting, including Kothrud Blind School, Dilasa School, Sangam World Centre, Aundh Ramp, SWaCH offices in Kothrud and Katraj.