They are to be immersed only in artificial tanks
Nagpur city will have to wait for another year to be finally rid of plaster of Paris (PoP) Ganesha idols that have been polluting its lakes. With just over a week to go for the popular Ganesh Chaturthi festival, the Nagpur bench of the Mumbai High Court on Tuesday, deferred the city municipal corporation’s proposed ban on these idols till the end of this year’s festival season. However, in a bid to ensure that this does not result in further pollution of the city’s lakes, court has ordered manufacturers to mark POP idols prominently in red for easy identification, and ruled that such idols will be immersed only in plastic tanks provided by the civic body at traditional immersion sites. Idol dealers have also been ordered to put up signs indicating the sites where POP idols can be immersed in their shops.
The court ordered that the Nagpur Municipal Corporation's (NMC) proposed ban may be imposed immediately after the end of the Navratri festival on October 24. Talking to media following the court’s order, mayor Anil Sole said that the rules for the ban have been framed and notified recently by the civic body, but there is no time before the festival to challenge the court order in the Supreme Court. Hence NMC has decided to concentrate on raising awareness and dissuading customers from buying PoP idols. The body has also requested major Ganesh Mandals to buy mud idols instead of POP ones. From next year onwards the ban will be fully implemented, he said.
NMC’s failure to implemented the ban this year has angered citizen’s organisations that have been demanding such a ban for years. Narendra Dabholkar, executive president of the non-profit Maharashtra Andhshraddha Nirmulan Samiti said at a press conference on September 11 that his organisation has been demanding a ban on PoP idols for the past 15 years, which has been supported by the Supreme Court and the Central Pollution Control Board. The Maharashtra government has issued an order on May 3, 2011, banning not just the use of PoP in idol-making but also the use of chemical and metallic colours, but the order has not been implemented anywhere in the state, he lamented.
He also called upon the civic body to take good care to ensure that POP idols do not find their way into lakes, warning that his organisation will film the festivities at the city’s immersion sites and submit the footage to the High Court.
Illegal construction for clean lake
Meanwhile, NMC’s efforts to prevent pollution in water bodies caused by idol immersion landed it in an unexpected legal tangle. The civic body recently constructed an artificial idol immersion tank in the vicinity of the Ambazari lake in the south-western part of the city. However, it turned out that the tank had been constructed in the bed of the Nag river which originates from the lake, constituting violation of a law which bans such construction in a notified river. The construction has also blocked the flow of fresh water from the lake into the river. This water is crucial for the health of the river which receives the bulk of Nagpur’s sewage.
However, no individual or organisation has till date has challenged the illegal construction. NMC’s deputy director for health, Milind Ganvir, said that the arrangement was temporary and will help residents of south-west Nagpur who will otherwise have to travel longer distances to immerse their idols.
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