With the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi fast approaching, authorities in Bengaluru have tightened their noose on the use of Plaster of Paris (PoP) to make idols. The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has been on a war footing in seizing such idols that enter the city and those made in traditional hubs like Pottery Town. As of Sunday afternoon, a total of 179 idols have been seized by the BBMP’s Health Department.
“We are increasing our vigil as we are approaching the festival date (September 2). If we spot repeat offenders, we will impose heavy fines and file a case against the makers. Otherwise, we will warn them and let them off,” Dr BK Vijayendra, Chief Health Officer, BBMP, told TNM.
Every year, the festival results in massive environmental damage as idols made from non-biodegradable material, like Plaster of Paris, end up in the city’s already ailing lakes. The ban on PoP to make idols has been in place since 2017 when the Karnataka High Court upheld a notice issued by the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB).
The Pollution Control Board has said that a first-of-its-kind 10 special vehicles will run across the city to spread awareness on the importance of celebrating Ganesha Chaturthi using eco-friendly measures, such as using clay to make the idols.
Dr K Sudhakar, Chairman of Karnataka State Pollution Control Board, said, “Using PoP idols has an adverse effect on the oxygen levels under water. Water bodies get severely affected by the non-biodegradable materials as they do not dissolve easily and decrease the depth of water. As they have proven to be toxic to not only to the environment but to human beings also. The amount of lead used in colouring the idol also affects the heart and kidney.”
The KSPCB has asked Bangalore Electricity Supply Company Ltd (BESCOM), BBMP, police department, fire and emergency services to give permission to groups or individuals to organise the rituals in public spaces provided they are using an eco-friendly Ganesha idol.
For the implementation of the rule outside the city limits, KSPCB has issued similar letters to the chief executive officers of gram panchayats, town panchayats and Commissioners of city corporations to strictly adhere to the rules of banning PoP idols.
The BBMP officials also claimed that over recent years the number of idols made of PoP has been reducing due to rising awareness in the city.
What happens to seized idols?
All the idols seized by various authorities will be transferred to the BBMP. This will then be handed over to Rock Crystals, a company that won the bid to run BBMP’s construction waste recycling unit.