Every year during Ganesh Chaturthi, the sea around Mumbai pays for the city’s religious fervour. The incredible damage done to our marine life at the hands of thousands of idols made of hazardous material (plaster of paris, lead-coated paint, plastic and metal ornaments) that are immersed—and the consequential pollution of the already fragile eco-system—is staggering.
If you’ve ever walked down Girgaum Chowpatty, Juhu Chowpatty, or any other immersion points, you’ll see the results of man’s indiscriminate religiosity: broken idols regurgitated by the already heavily polluted sea, garlands of flowers half-stomped into the mud, countless plastic bags, wasted food—it coats the beach like a stubborn oil slick. It’s enough to make you sick. And frankly, it probably is making you sick. The toxins released into the sea include lead, mercury, cadmium, and even arsenic. You don’t have to be a scientist to realise that polluting on such a large scale will ultimately backfire on humans: the pollutants get absorbed into the water and are ingested by the fish, which in turn are eaten by us.
If you need an idea of how polluted the beaches in Mumbai are, sample this - a study by National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) called Keep off Sand: Here’s how Filthy Mumbai’s Beaches are’, says that, “Human and animal excreta in the sea is 100 to 1000 times above the permissible amounts and swimming in the sea can be dangerous and cause a host of illnesses.” The study focused on the sewage discharge on the water quality in the west coast and said that the beaches were highly contaminated with bacteria and venturing or swimming in the sea is lethal.
The festival fervor is catching on as Lord Ganesha makes his presence felt in the city. As the 10 day celebrations begin, social media and news outlets are trying their best to encourage the Eco-friendly Ganesha idols, decorations and unique efforts to safeguard the environment. With news reportssuggesting that there has been a 100 percent spike in the demand for clay idols and 40 percent decrease in Plaster Of Paris idols, it’s affirming to see that the most loved God in our city might actually be inspiring people to do better. Right from idols made with sugarcane, mentos candy, chocolates and even buckets, people are going all out to be more creative than the other.
The following are some of the most interesting Ganesh idols we have seen so far as the celebrations approach:
I. Tree Ganesha by Dattadri Kothur
Dia Mirza started trending online all thanks to Dattadri Kothur’s Tree Ganesha. The 30-year-old art director has fashioned an idol out of soil, Shadu clay and fertilisers and mixed tree seeds with them. When a person waters the idol instead of immersing it, the statue fades away and the seeds grow into plants and saplings. According to reports, Kothur’s team hasn’t been able to meet the demands because of the sudden popularity but are glad that people are appreciating it.
II. #GodSaveTheOcean by Sprouts Environment Trust
What is better than immersing a Ganesha Idol? An idol made of fish food! We had covered Sprouts initiative in our feature last year as well and are yet to come across a team and an idea as creative as this. With the idol made from clay and vegetables like leafy greens and corn stuffed inside, the idol disintegrates into a grand buffet for our friends in the sea. With the number of immersions going upto two lakhs this year, the Mumbai beach could use more help for its underwater residents. The idea that came up from the ad agency Ogilvy & Mather has been taken forward by the founder of the NGO. Currently dealing with orders from 18 different cities, this is one idea we hope catches up soon.
III. Jal Hai Toh Kal Hai by Srinivas Ganeshotsav Mandal
If you get the chance to visit this Mulund West Mandal, you will catch a glimpse of a Ganesh idol fashioned out of mugs, buckets, showerheads, earthen pots and water pipes. Kalpesh Lodaya, one of the key members of the Mandal who overlooks the construction of the idol each year always has a new trick up his sleeve. This year the theme is based around water considering the dreadful drought Maharashtra has been facing. Lodaya had created an idol out of household products in the honour of home-makers and even game equipment of different sports. All the materials are disintegrated and are given back to places they were borrowed from.
IV. Alum Ganpati by Ramesh Kher and Vivek Kamble, Pune
Our neighbours in Pune have created an idol from the water purifying agent alum and it couldn’t be more poetic. Clearing the water pollution with the easily dissolving alum, they seem to have a clear vision for the environment. People need to order their idol seven months in advance as one idol takes upto eight days to sculpt.
V. Jal Vinayaka By J Walter Thomson and To Make A Difference
In association with To Make A Difference, an NGO that has supplied 6590 eco-friendly Ganesha idols over 7 years, the Jal Vinayaka has now come up with a first of its kind idol crafted with a mixture of activated charcoal (sourced from coconut shells) and pure clay, substances proven to have a cleansing effect on water. The pure clay and activated charcoal both work through a process called ‘adsoprtion’. Adsorption is different from absorption; the former attracts particles to its surface. The impurities adsorbed by the activated charcoal will be rendered harmless. As the Jal Vinayaka idol is immersed into a water body, the activated charcoal and clay will get to work, adsorbing several contaminants, leaving the water in a better quality than it was before.
VI. 108 Ganpati Art from Forgotten People in India at Panchaganga Sarvajanik Utsav Mandal in Lower Parel (East)
Spending Rs. 12 lakh of his savings on getting lesser known Tribal, Adivasi and forgotten communities in India to make Ganpati Art, Sumit Patil has finally realized his dreams he has been working on for the last year. Working with marginalized communities from most regions of the country, Patil is exhibiting art, some of which have a 1500 years worth of history. There is also an idol made with antique kerosene and oil lamps that were carried by the community of watch guards from the Kudal area in Maharashtra called Tingalyajoshi. You can show your support for these gifted yet ignored artists by showing up.
VII. Eco-Friendly Ganesha App by the Jadhavs
Pratik Jadhav is receiving a lot of support for his one stop shop website and phone application for eco-friendly ganesha idols and decorations. Curating eco-friendly idols from across the spectrum, his website and app give details about where to buy the idols from, step by step guide to setting up and sprucing up your house, unique ideas to take inspiration from, Bollywood’s Ganpati idols and other helplful material. You can log onto their website here or download their app.
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