Water checks before and after Durga Puja festivities in Patna, Bhagalpur, Gaya, Purnia, Muzaffarpur and Darbhanga
In an effort to discourage the possible immersion of hundreds of goddess Durga idols in Ganga and other rivers across Bihar, the State Pollution Control Board (BSPCB) for the first time warned puja organisers not to violate guidelines and urged them to immerse idols in artificial ponds created for the purpose instead of rivers.
This year’s Durga Puja festivities conclude on October 24 with the immersion of the idols after nine days of celebrations. The board is checking the water quality of rivers before and after the festivities this year to identify violations of guidelines.
The BSPCB has already conducted quality checks of water pollution levels in rivers at several places and another check will be conducted after the rituals end. Puja organisers have also been asked to remove all decoration items and synthetic materials before the idols are immersed in artificial ponds.
Read more: Idols immersed, fears surface
Action will be initiated if guidelines are not followed, said a top official of the board. “This measure is important to minimise idol immersion in the Ganga and other rivers. Several scientific studies have found high levels of pollution in the Ganga river in Patna and other places following Durga Puja idol immersions,” the official said.
A pre-immersion survey of the Ganga river was carried out on October 16 in Patna, Bhagalpur, Gaya, Purnia, Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga and other cities in the state, said a BSPCB official. The post-immersion survey will take place on October 25, 27, 29 and 31.
Only strict measures by the BSPCB will deter people from immersing hundreds of idols in rivers, including the Ganga, said environment activist Mahendar Yadav.
“People worship Ganga and consider it a holy river, but they also immerse hundreds of idols in it, increasing environmental threats to it. The board's decision to identify violations of its guidelines after immersion will raise awareness of the need to immerse the idols elsewhere to prevent further pollution of the river,” he said.
Idol immersion is a major threat to the environmental health of rivers because most idols are made of non-biodegradable materials and decorated with synthetic items, according to Rahul Yaduka, a water activist.
“Unlike three to four decades ago, when idols were made of clay, natural materials, and natural colours, today's dols are made of plastic and fibreglass and are not environmentally friendly,” Yaduka said.
Environment activists claimed around 10,000 idols in the state are immersed in rivers every year. BSPCB issues guidelines every year, but the puja organisers do not pay heed and go ahead with immersions, they said. The official data from the pollution control agency will help bring focus to the degradation of water quality.
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