Ganesha Chaturthi marks the birth of Ganesh, the Elephant God, the remover of obstacles. Back in India, Ganesha Chaturthi is celebrated with much fervor and enthusiasm all over the country. But even the remover of obstacles cannot possibly remove the amount of garbage that is dumped into every water body, from the mighty seas to little lakes, 10 days after the festival, when the Ganesha idols are immersed into water to mark the end of the festival.
Here is the nice side of the story...Ganesh Chaturthi starts with colorfully painted idols of ganesha being sold several days before the festival.
Here is the not so nice side...Ganesha idols are typically made of clay or plaster of paris and colorfully painted with paints containing harmful chemicals such as arsenic and mercury. Plaster of paris takes a long time to dissolve and releases many toxins into the water when it dissolves.
On the day of the festival, these ganesha idols are beautifully decorated with flowers, colorful garments, and puja is performed.
Decorations often are made of plastic, thermocole and other non-bio degradable substances.
On the 10th day, these idols are taken to the sea (or any water body closeby) in a procession, and immersed. There is a lot of dancing and singing in the procession, making it a gala event.
Thousands of ganesha idols (with sizes ranging from a few inches to more than 80 feet in height) immersed into the sea (or any water body closeby). Along with it goes all the flowers, garments, decorative materials into the water. The irony of the story is that the same ganesha idols that were adorned and worshipped a few days ago, often end up washing up on the shores broken, and are left there for dump trucks to deal with.
For a environment friendly Ganesh Chaturti, here are some things we can do:
1. Use clay idols of ganesha, preferably unpainted. If you really need painted ones, purchase something that use vegetable dyes, that are bio degradable, and not harmful to nature.
2. Avoid using plastic or thermocole decorations.
3. Do not dump any flowers into the lake / sea. Dispose them off separately.
4. Immerse ganesha in a tub. Many temples have a small pond like area for this purpose. Make use of them. Do not use water bodies like a lake or sea for immersion.