As the city celebrates Ganeshotsav with renewed vigour after a two-year Covid-induced break, Ramakant Biradar, deputy municipal commissioner, Zone 2, and the man in charge of the arrangements for the festival, speaks about the preparations, eco-friendly measures by the corporation, public response and whether a cent per cent eco-friendly festival could be a reality.
Ganpati celebrations are happening after two years. How is it like?
The celebrations are happening in a big way. The government and the civic administration have asked us to provide as many facilities as possible. The BMC has made available 73 natural and 162 artificial immersion points across the city. There is provision for nirmalya (floral offerings), ambulances, lifeguards, motorboats, watchtowers and toilets at immersion points. Steel plateshave beenlaid at Chowpatty and other major immersion centres so that vehicular movement is easy. We have control rooms to monitor the situation. At least 10,000 staff are working for the celebrations.
What are the eco-friendly measures in place this time?
We have urged devotees to use artificial immersion points. Putting idols that do not dissolve quickly into the deep sea is also being done. We have requested devotees not to keep household idols beyond two feet and to desist from using PoP (Plaster of Paris) as much as they can. We have also requested themto follow the pollutioncontrol norms of sound not going beyond 75 decibels in industrial areas, 65 in commercial areas and 55 decibels in residential areas. Most wards have places to collect the nirmalya. Of the 800 metric tonnes of nirmalya generated, 10% is converted into manure. Flowers from nirmalya are also used to make the colour. Besides, we have taken some precautions like asking devotees to avoid crowding on 13 unsafe bridges.
What has been the response like to the drive?
The response has been good. There is a lot of awareness among people about ecofriendly measures. On their own they are using clay, paper, wood and other ecofriendly materials over PoP. We have various samitis like the Brihanmumbai Ganesh Utsav Samanway Samiti, Mumbai Upnagar Samanway Samiti, Akhil Ganesh Mahasangh and Murtikar Mahasangh. We have worked with them to have as many eco-friendly measures as possible in place and they have responded well. We have seen a 20% shift to ecofriendly idols this year. We held various meetings to tell them not to use chemical colours that canharmaquatic life or cause cancer.
Has lifting of height restrictions hurt the campaign for eco-friendly celebration?
Not at all. Lifting of restrictions did not impact the drive for eco awareness. The festival is happening after two years and hence some restrictions were lifted this year.
What is the BMC doing to ensure festivals are more eco-friendly?
The BMC is giving sculptors making ecofriendly idols more locations and space. Such idols require more space and time to be made.
Do you think a cent per cent eco-friendly Ganpati festival is ever possible?
It is possible if we can follow procedures as in Pune. They do not immerse big idols and only immerse the smaller eco-friendly ones. We want to reach that stage where big idols are not immersed but preserved.
You hold charge for festivals.What measures are being taken to ensure others are also eco-friendly?
Wehave theDurgaPuja coming up. Since the idols are not as many, immersions happen mostly in water bodies. But we will spread the messages about eco-friendly measures like using eco-friendly colours.