There’s relief for Ganesha devotees and idol makers in the recent order of National Green Tribunal, which ruled that plaster of Paris does not pollute river water.
The forum was agreeing with the conclusions of city-based research laboratory Shrishti Eco-Research Institute (SERI), which had deflated the position of Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) that PoP is an environmental pollutant.
The judgment was given by the tribunals Delhi branch on May 9, after a group of 19 idol manufactures and challenged the CPCB’s position in court. Welcoming the verdict, Dr Sandeep Joshi, president of SERI, said, “Guidelines issued by CPCB do not indicate any findings that PoP is an environment pollutant.”
According to Joshi, the tribunal has not agreed that PoP is not easily soluble in water, that it gradually settles at the bottom of the river, and that it has potential to make the water alkaline if excessively deposited in a pond, river or well. The forum also said that these were observations, which, prima facie, were culled out from certain study papers that have been placed on record.
“There is no pollution in Mutha River due to immersion of Ganesha idols, according to a report compiled by SERI and Air Quality Management Cell in 2012. Even Maharashtra Pollution Control Board does not say that idol immersion causes pollution in the river,” claimed Joshi. “PoP idols constitute less than one per cent of the 15 tonnes of sewage left in the river every day. About 60,000 Ganpati idols weighing 1.5 tonnes are immersed in the Mutha River during the Ganpati Utsav.”
Ajay Vaishampayan, activist and consultant to Pune Municipal Corporation on immersion of PoP statues during Ganpati festival, said, “Fortunately, the tribunal has given green signal to PoP, which we were in favour of anyway. PoP is not a pollutant, and this has been ruled by the tribunal itself.” “This material in fact makes farm soil more fertile. The misconception about PoP has been debunked by the tribunal, and this is a welcome sign,” said Suresh Wagvankar, a PoP idol maker.
However, Dr Narendra Dabholkar, founder president, Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samitee, was not in favour of the decision. “I believe CPCB is the supreme authority and it had made its observation after conducting studies. The sculptors are bound to support this verdict. We are firm on our views of not using PoP for Ganpati statues. The awareness drive will continue as in the past.”
The tribunal has accepted norms or benchmarks for heights of PoP idols regarding immersion. It said though PoP was not found to be an environmental pollutant, “idols more than 8 to 10 feet in height should not be immersed in the sea, but in the ponds, lakes, created by local bodies for this temporary purpose”.