Goa’s Ganpati festival: ecological concerns linger
- Goa tops the chat in banning plaster of Paris idols.
- ]Unlike in olden times when idols were made of clay, today’s Ganeshas are usually gypsum plaster, calcinated hemihydrated calcium sulphate, more commonly known as plaster of Paris (PoP).
- Aside from the base material, the bright paints and dyes most artisans use contain toxic chemicals like mercury, zinc oxide, chromium, lead, and cadmium.
- They poison water bodies and aquatic life, and they can cause cancer, respiratory ailments, skin infections when they make their way back to humans via the seafood we eat or the water we drink.
- Motivated by these concerns, organisations and individuals have been working to promote clay idols and natural dyes, as editions of this newspaper in Mumbai, Bengaluru and Tamil Nadu have reported and the government of Goa is ahead of them.
How is it successful?
- It is implemented via a multi-agency approach — the GSPCB, the GHRSSIDC, the Excise and Commercial Tax department, the Transport department, and the police are involved.
- The enforcement end includes measures like flying squads patrolling the borders to stop PoP idols from coming in ahead of the festival.
- The Commissioner of Excise is empowered to check vehicles or attach them with the help of police.
- GHRSSIDC and GSPCB officials in tandem inspect registered chitrashallas and withdraw subsidies and licences consent if they flout the ban.
- GSPCB’s annual report for 2014–15, released recently, says that results of analysis of samples from rivers and water bodies across the state before and after the festival revealed no increase in pollution.
- The report also said that GSPCB, at the directions of the National Green Tribunal, conducted a survey of chitrashallas to ascertain that no PoP idols are manufactured prior to the festival season.