Mumbai : The perception of devotees should change, more of them should celebrate an eco-friendly Ganeshotsav, says environmentalist and founder Arvind Hosalkar of the Maitrayee Foundation, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), which creates awareness on eco-friendly festivities in Mumbai. The Indian freedom fighter Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak turned Ganesh Chaturthi from a private celebration to a grand public event, to bring people together and enlighten them about the struggle against British rule. But now, it has become a festival of cacophony, frivolous, fancy decorations and a one-upmanship show between groups, Hosalkar lamented.
He said, “We usually create awareness in schools, colleges, societies and other places on why people must bring home clay idols. Clay is a natural product and therefore, when the idols are immersed in water, it returns to its origins, unlike Plaster of Paris idols, which are not bio-degradable and create marine pollution.”
He further stated Ganeshotsav should not be reduced to a competition. “Many people compete with others, thinking their Ganesh idol, and the decorations should be more beautiful than the neighbour’s. In this race to outdo the other, several bring in non-environment friendly products. They will purchase Plaster of Paris made idols as these are more impressive and attractive than the traditional idols made of clay or paper.
Ramakant Patkar, seller of clay and paper Ganesh idols in Andheri, told The Free Press Journal, although several people visited his workshop, they did not find the products on display attractive. He stated, “Idols of clay or paper pulp pose limitations when it comes to decorations, unlike PoP idols. They can be easily damaged or develop, whereas, PoP idols are more amenable to decorative flourishes.”
Although the demand for clay and paper Ganeshas is low, their makers continue to be optimistic about their prospects. Real estate company Nahar Group, which has a township in Andheri housing more than four thousand people, is creating awareness on eco-friendly Ganeshotsav there. A spokesperson said, “Last year, only 15 to 20 people participated in the eco-friendly workshop we organised. However, this year, more than 300 people participated, where we trained them on how to make eco-friendly Ganesh idols and decorations.”