Ganesh Chaturthi 2019: 'Mera Kachra, Meri Zimmedari' should be the motto of the people, says Chinu Kwatra

Updated: Aug 14, 2019, 18:30 IST | Saumya Gourisaria

Environmentalist Chinu Kwatra, Founder of Beach Warriors has been cleaning seven beaches of Mumbai since the past 102 weeks

Chinu Kwatra while cleaning the Dadar beach
Chinu Kwatra while cleaning the Dadar beach

Ganesh Chaturthi, the festival which celebrates the coming of Lord Ganesha on Earth is a popular Hindu festival celebrated across Mumbai and other parts of the country. After being worshipped for eleven days, Ganesha bids goodbye on Anant Chaturdashi that also marks the end of the festival and idols are immersed in water. However, when idols are immersed in bulk numbers, the beaches get choked and polluted, also the idols made of Plaster of Paris (PoP) and coated with harmful chemical paints take a toll on the marine life in the sea.

Environmentalist Chinu Kwatra, founder of Beach Warriors decided to make a change by taking up the task of cleaning the beaches. With his team of volunteers, Kwatra has taken up beach clean-up drives after the Ganapati immersions since 2017 in a bid to keep the beaches clean and protect the environment.

In a chat with mid-day online journalist Saumya Gourisaria, environmentalist Chinu Kwatra talks about Ganesh Chaturthi, the use of eco-friendly Ganesh idols and how to celebrate the festival without causing any harm to the environment.

Before we start talking about Ganpati this year, let's talk about last year and the ruckus that the immersion created.

This year will mark the third Ganpati festival where we will take up cleanup activities in different areas. We started our journey on September 3, 2017, during Ganesh Visarjan. The first clean-up drive during Ganesh season was tough and terrible as well since it was our first time and also awareness was really low at that point. Being a die-hard devotee of Ganesha, it was heartbreaking to see Ganpati idols lying on the shore, with broken hands and limbs. However, the 2018 season saw a stark difference. Surprisingly and happily, there was a significant change. However, the percentage of the change was minimal (nearly 10-20 per cent). This year, we are expecting a lot of change during the festival.

The first issue that we faced in the last two years is POP idols which harm the ocean. Secondly, the plastic and the polythene bags that enter the sea tend to hamper the water species in the ocean. We can also see that during the rainy season, the ocean tends to throw up garbage in every corner of the city. 

Also read: A pawsitively good idea! After poor kids, Roti Ghar now feeds stray dogs

Last year, during Ganpati Visarjan itself, right from 1.5 days to 11 days, we collected almost 100 tonnes of garbage per beach which included all the idols, puja samagri, plastic and other materials as well. Many people also have a habit of throwing all the garbage collected over days and months in the sea during the visarjan. 

How do you think immersion impacts the beach?(Marine Life, nature, beach, POP etc)

The ocean is a science. They say, whatever you give to the ocean, comes back to you. Mumbaikars are witnessing the same thing in today's day and age. Mumbai's iconic Marine Drive keeps throwing back garbage. Secondly, it is again a scientific fact that the ocean gives you the most amount of oxygen and absorbs carbon dioxide. Mumbai is blessed with the ocean as the pollution is taken care of. What better can you get without paying any money! However, when we get things free of cost, we don't value them. We need more people to take care of the beaches in Mumbai. People go to Goa to enjoy scenic beaches, why not take care of our beaches in Mumbai? The ocean is one of the most important things in life. Thirdly, the sewage opens to the ocean, so even if one litters 30-40 kms away from the ocean, it is still going to make its way to the sea. The mindset needs to change where we need to realise that my garbage is my responsibility. 

We still find last year's Ganpati idols with broken arms, limbs, which is one of our biggest challenges. Last Sunday as well, we found a Ganesha idol. These do not just include the ones which were immersed, but also the ones used for gifting purposes. 

Apart from eco-friendly idols, what are the steps that can be taken to curb the dirt? 

Eco-friendly idols are definitely a solution. However, considering the sentiments of people, there is also chocolate Ganesha which is an amazing concept.  It solves two purposes. Firstly, one can keep the Ganesha idol at home. Secondly, the immersion of chocolate Ganesha happens in warm milk, which makes it chocolate milk that can be given to the underprivileged. In this manner, one can help the society too. 

It is a win-win situation if we use artificial ponds which have been made by the government. Bollywood actress Amrita Rao also immerses the Ganesha idol at her home in a drum filled with water. One can welcome Ganpati which already exists in the temple in your house. Take care of him for 11 days and when the day of immersion comes, dip him in water and then place him in the temple itself. This way, Ganesha doesn't leave your house. We can also contribute our bit to society. Other than that, we need to stop using plastic, thermocol and use flowers instead. 

Also read: Instead of saying 'save water' lets say 'donate water', says Chinu Kwatra

It is also important to realise that the size of the idol is not a status symbol. Small idols also have the same power as that of a 15-foot one. What we need to ensure is the happiness of the people. 

Ganesh Chaturthi 2019

Can you suggest a few tips that can be followed?

The first tip is to not immerse the Ganesha idol in the sea. There are a number of artificial ponds given to us by the MCGM, BMC and other municipalities. Other than that, the usage of plastic needs to stop. Thirdly, since there are almost 20 days left for Ganesh Chaturthi, there is still time for us to invest in eco-friendly Ganesha. Eco-friendly Ganeshas are not just beautiful but are also made of mud. Even the colours that are used are eco-friendly. Hence, it will return to the earth even if you immerse it in the ocean. POP harms the ocean and environment. 

Being an environmentalist who cleans these beaches throughout the year, how do you feel when the condition comes back to square one after the immersion?

It is after the immersion as well as during the monsoon season when the ocean throws back garbage. Beach Warriors say, 'The more we see the garbage on beaches, the more cleanups we will do.' We will be happy when the beaches are clean and everybody takes responsibility for their own garbage. 'Mera Kachra, Meri Zimmedari'. Maybe, no Chinu or Beach Warriors will be required in that case. 

How is the BMC supporting you in the cleanups?

The BMC is supporting us 110 per cent. Statistics, as well as BMC workers who I have been working with closely, say that Mumbai has a 2 crore plus population. The garbage which is created by the entire population is taken care of by 28,000 civic workers. The ratio is a bit odd, isn't it? The 2 crore population has to help the BMC in taking care of beaches. We come here once a week for two hours to clean the beach. The other days BMC takes care of it. The BMC also provides us with the equipment for our task. 

Also read: Mumbai: Park and ride AC bus for Ganpati's darshan at Siddhivinayak

One of the politicians, who works for the environment and is a very good friend of mine, often comes and jumps in the cleanups himself. Not for five or ten minutes, but for two hours! When a politician like him takes such steps, its a win-win situation for the society as well as the environment.

Ganesh Chaturthi 2019

What is Go Green Ganesha challenge?

The Beach Warriors team has taken an initiative in collaboration with Green Yuva. Amrita Rao has also come on board with EcoBappaMoryaGanesha. This is Go Green Ganesha challenge 2.0 where people can register for free. Our volunteers will visit their place during Ganesh Chaturthi as well as keep a check on a few pointers. Firstly, plastic should not be used, it should be an eco-friendly Ganesh idol and immersion should not take place in the ocean. If these three points are fulfilled, they will be eligible to win prizes. There are six zones in Mumbai and there will be 3 winners per zone, hence, a total of 18 winners. This is just to motivate the people to show their support to the environment. Last year, 80 people participated in the challenger, while this year, we are targetting 800 people. 

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Ganesh Chaturthi 2019: Ganpati Idols transported to pandals from Lalbaug
  • 1/10

    On Sunday, thousands of Mumbaikars woke up to get the first glimpse of two of Mumbai's most popular Ganesh idols, the Khetwadi Cha Raja and Chinchpoklicha Chintamani, as the two idols made their way out of the workshop in Lalbaug and were taken to their respective pandals in Mumbai. Pic/Atul Kamble

  • 2/10

    Mumbaikars were treated to the first look at Khetwadi Cha Raja, which is one of the most famous and one of the oldest Ganesh pandals in Mumbai. Established way back in 1959, the Khetwadi Cha Raja is one of the oldest Ganesh pandals in Girgaon, Mumbai. Pic/Atul Kamble

  • 3/10

    In pic: Khetwadi Cha Raja being taken in a procession through the streets of Lalbaug to its pandal in Girgaon in Mumbai. Pic/Atul Kamble

  • 4/10

    Ganesh Chaturthi festival, which is also called Ganpati, is one of the most awaited festivals of the year in Mumbai and across the state of Maharashtra. Pic/Bipin Kokate

  • 5/10

    Thousands of devotees gathered outside the workshop in Lalbaug, Parel in order to get the first glimpse of their favourite Bappa. Pic/Bipin Kokate

  • 6/10

    Mumbaikars welcomed two of the most popular Ganesh Idols, Khetwadi Cha Raja and Chinchpoklicha Chintamani, amidst chants 'Ganpati Bappa Morya' as young and old tapped their feet to the beats of Dhol Tasha music while young girls were seen performing Lezim, which is a folk dance form of Maharashtra. Pic/Bipin Kokate

  • 7/10

    A devotee of Lord Ganesha is seen waving the flag of Shivaji Maharaj and leading the way as Chinchpokli Cha Raja makes its way to the pandal. Pic/Bipin Kokate

  • 8/10

    Besides Khetwadi Cha Raja, devotees were also lucky enough to get the first look of Chinchpokli Cha Raja which is also called as Chinchpoklicha Chintamani. This year, Chinchpoklicha Chintamani completes 100 years of being into existence. Pic/Bipin Kokate

  • 9/10

    The highlight of Chinchpoklicha Cha Raja was its 'Aagman Sohala', which welcomes lord Ganesha 10 days prior to the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi. In the pic, the Chinchpoklicha Chintamani is taken through a procession at Lalbaug in Mumbai. Pic/Atul Kamble

  • 10/10

    In this picture, young boys and girls play instruments as thousands of devotees tap their feet marking the celebrations of the Ganesh Chaturthi 2019. Pic/Atul Kamble

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