Ganpati Visarjan: From 2020, I want to stop beach clean-ups, says environmentalist Chinu Kwatra
Environmentalist Chinu Kwatra feels that Mumbaikars are now more aware of cleanliness and more and more citizens are volunteering in clean up drives, which is a positive sign
Just like every year, after the immersion of Ganesh idols in 2019, heaps of garbage, including broken idols washed ashore at Dadar beach. However, environmentalist Chinu Jeet Kwatra, who has been conducting regular cleanliness drives since 2018 says that the number of idols collected this far year is less than what was collected in 2108, which is a big positive sign. Chinu Kwatra speaks to mid-day online correspondent Saumya Gourisaria about the cleanup drives and how it has impacted Mumbai and its citizens. Excerpts from the interview...
How many idols have you found?
This year has been much better for us. Let me give you some statistics: When we started in 2017, we found nearly 300-350 idols after the one and a half-day Ganesh Visarjan, in 2018 we found 250 idols after one and a half days and this year, we found only 30-35 idols. So somewhere, Mumbai is improving, which is a very positive sign.
How better or worse was it from the last year?
It has been really good this year. The people are changing and so is the city of Mumbai. The spirit of Mumbai is always high. Mumbaikars may have taken time to wake up in terms of plastic pollution and keeping the environment clean but yes, it's a win-win situation. I can see the change, the beach behind me is clean and walkable, right after the Visarjan, without the cleanup. It is a sign that Mumbaikars are more aware and the city is moving towards a positive change. Hats off to Mumbai!
What do you do with the broken idols you find during the cleanup?
All the idols which have been found until now, have gone to Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). There was news recently, according to which the BMC is using a chemical in the artificial ponds, which will help to break down the POP from which chalk can be made.
What about the puja samagri (worship material), flowers and plastic that washed ashore? Is there a reduction in the quantity?
Visarjan is the only time when people throw everything that they have been collecting for a year in the sea. Not only plastic, everything else as well. Plastic is definitely there, the ocean still has the same amount of plastic which we have left at the shore. I'm sure that we are going to find dhotis of the Ganpati idols, garlands and flowers as well. Yesterday, the BMC, NGO workers and my teammates as well were here and told citizens to put the samagri in the 'Kalash' (pot) and to only touch the idol with water and then leave it on the side.
What change have you noticed in the mentality of the people?
The first thing is that people have changed when they talk about garbage, open littering. People fear to litter nowadays, be it because of the BMC's fine or any other reason. People are now appreciating such work and they are taking the initiative to volunteer, even if it is for 10-15 minutes. If we keep moving forward like this, by 2020, Mumbai should be a 'clean city'.
It is also important to realise the ratio of people who are spreading garbage to the people who are cleaning it. In a population of 2.5-3 crore, there are nearly 25000-30000 Swachhata Heroes. The mentality will change only when they are emotionally hit. The reason why we call volunteers is because they should realise that 'this is the plastic bottle which I had tossed out of my window once upon a time."
What is the one thing which hurts you most?
I have been a devotee of Ganesha since childhood and I have been bringing Ganesha home since the past 25-26 years. The condition that I will have to see Ganesha in today, with broken arms and trunk, is something that hurts me most. It is similar to inviting a guest over and once he leaves, we start speaking ill of them. I can see so many broken hands, limbs of Ganesha idols in the water right now and that hurts me. On the night of the Visarjan, my teammate sent me pictures of the beach and my heart sank when I saw them.
How did your Go Green Ganesha challenge go?
It went absolutely great as this year we had more registrations than the past year, even though it was not the number that we were expecting. We did nearly 120-125 registrations this year compared to last year's 70-75. Our first winner was Tejukyacharaja who got a Ganesha whose height was 20 feet and it was made of paper.
What is the percentage of eco-friendly Ganpati used this year?
This year when I was going to buy my own Ganesha idol, the vendor told me that he himself got 70 per cent eco-friendly idols and 30 per cent POP idols and it was because of market demand. So, yes, Mumbai is changing.
How has the support from celebrities helped you?
Celebs are the voice, ears, eyes of the country. They have a lot of followers who believe in them, and if we can inspire those followers with the help of celebrities, it is a win-win situation for us. Amrita Rao came to help with the cleanup and if her fan-following follows her and starts keeping their areas clean, that itself is a great change. Celebs are the voice of the country who can bring about a change.
Especially on social media, whenever I tag a celeb and he/she reverts to that, their fans also start to follow them. After Guru Randhawa's birthday, his fans fed a lot of underprivileged kids.
What about the BMC?
BMC and the Mumbai police have done a fabulous job. The people who crib about the BMC, should come and witness the conditions here before speaking. During Ganesh Chaturthi, they have 10-11 sleepless nights and are personally monitoring the beaches. However clean the beach is today, it is not just because of our work, it is the BMC's hard work as well.
Which is the worst-affected beach?
Bandra-Chimbai beach is a 400-year old beach and it initially had a volleyball ground set up there. TO this date, it is the worst affected beach. The second beach is Cuffe Parade, Machimaar Nagar. It has become popular for the wrong reasons during the 26/11 attacks. I want to change that.
What change are you expecting in 2020?
Looking forward to 2020, I want to shut down Beach Warriors and stop doing cleanups. This is only possible when Mumbai becomes a clean city. I have one request for Mumbaikars. Next year, bring a Ganesha idol, who is happy even as he departs and doesn't leave us with much work left to do.
Lalbaugcha Raja the popular Ganesh idol of the 'Lalbaugcha Raja Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal', makes its way towards Girgaun Chowpatty for visarjan (immersion process). Pic/Atul Kamble
Lalbaugcha Raja as a tradition is organised by the Kamble family every year, who have a workshop by the name of 'Kambli Arts' in Lalbaug, Parel. The immersion procession of Lalbaugcha Raja in the morning at Lalbaug, Parel. Pic/Manjeet Thakur
Thousands of devotees throng Parel Cha Raja (Narepark) as it proceeded towards visarjan. As the city geared up for Ganpati Visarjan, police in the state put in place elaborate security measures, including crowd control. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
In Mumbai, the immersion of Ganesh idols took place at 129 places including Girgaum Chowpatty, Shivaji Park, and at Juhu, Aksa, Versova and Marve beaches of the Arabian Sea. Lakhs of Mumbaikars participated in key processions like that of 'Lalbaugcha Raja'. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
Reportedly, there are 5630 Sarvajanik Ganpati all over Mumbai and more than 32,000 household Ganpati idols. There are 129 places earmarked in Mumbai for immersion of the idols. Pic/AFP
For the immersion of Ganpati in 2109, as many as 56 roads were declared as one way. To monitor the crowd more than 5000 cameras all over the city were placed. In three points, drones were being used to regulate and monitor the situation; the points were - Juhu Chowpatty, Girgaum Chowpatty and Powai lake. Pic/AFP
In picture: Raj Kapoor's son Rajiv Kapoor attended the Ganpati Bappa aarti and puja at Ashtvinayak Mitra Mandal at Chembur Naka. Pic/Sameer Markande
Rajiv Kapoor pays his respects and offers prayers to Lord Ganesha at Ashtvinayak Mitra Mandal at Chembur Naka. Pic/Sameer Markande.
Kalachowki Ganesh Idol on Chinchpokli rail over bridge. Pic/ Pradeep Dhivar
In picture: Devotees of Lord Ganesh during the Visarjan that took place at Girgaum Chowpatty. Pic/ Shadab Khan
In picture: Devotees pay their respects to Lord Ganesh during the Ganesh Visarjan at Girgaum Chowpatty. Pic/ Shadab Khan
The Ganesh Visarjan takes place on a grand scale in the evening at Linking Road, Bandra. Pic/Rachna Kanwar
Mumbai Police was on their toes manoeuvring traffic across the city. Pic/Rachna Kanwar
A picture of Lord Ganesha statue taken from a top angle during the Ganpati Visarjan in Mumbai
In picture: Lord Ganesha's idol as Ganesh Visarjan took place in the suburbs of Andheri East in Mumbai, Pic/Utsav Joshi
In picture: Devotees throng the idol of Lord Ganesh during Visarjan in Andheri East, Pic/Utsav Joshi
In picture: A grand idol of Lord Ganesh during the Ganpati Visarjan near Paradise Cinema in Mahim, Mumbai, Pic: Sunny Rodricks
Devotees thronged to various parts of Mumbai to take part in the 'Ganesh Visarjan' procession. Anant Chaturdashi, also known as Ganesh Visarjan is a festival that occurs 10 days after Ganesh Chaturthi. Here's a look at the Ganesh Visarjan that took place across the city of Mumbai. Pictures/mid-day photographers, AFP
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Ganpati 2019: 'Mera Kachra, Meri Zimmedari' should be the motto of the people, says Chinu Kwatra