Consider this: Over 2,35,000 Ganesh idols are going to be immersed in the lakes and ponds of Hyderabad this year. And experts rightly contend that even Lord Ganesha cannot save our water bodies from the ecological damage that this nimajjan is going to inflict. Ironically, the "over 2,00,000 green idols" distributed by the GHMC this year to reduce pollution are only going to reduce the holding capacity of our already shrunken lakes.
While the PoP, metal and toxic chemical-laden paints destroy the water bodies no doubt, large scale immersion of clay idols isn't exactly an eco-friendly alternative
either, laments Lubna Sarwath, co-convenor, Save Our Urban Lakes.
"The clay settles on the lake bed and makes it impermeable and as a result water stops seeping in from the ground, causing reduction in the holding capacity of the water bodies. The precious pure rain water does not find a storage space as a result leading to floods during heavy rains. That's precisely why the city is left dry even after copious rains," rues Lubna adding, "It is extremely sad to see the Telangana government promoting immersion of clay idols as a way to reduce pollution."
Further, the government policy of constructing immersion tanks — 10 tanks were built in 2016 followed by another 20 this year — is not only flawed but in violation of the law, contends Lubna. "Many of these immersion tanks are being constructed right inside the water bodies. They will only further reduce the already depleted holding capacities of the lakes. Besides it is a blatant violation of the law — be it The Environment Protection Act 1986, Andhra Pradesh (Telangana Area) Irrigation Act, 1357 F (Fasli), The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and AP Water Land and Trees Act, 2002 that ban dumping of any effluents into water bodies," she says.
High Court advocate Mamidi Venumadhav, who filed a petition to ban immersion of Ganesh idols in Hussain Sagar in 2010, concurs saying, "The court directed the government to follow the model followed in Bengaluru. There the idols are immersed in alternative ponds and are purified in sewerage treatment facilities before being released back into water bodies. But in Hyderabad, most idols are immersed in the water bodies itself."
Perhaps the government would do well to follow the lead set by Pinnacle Towers Owners' Association, Umanagar, Begumpet — they immerse their clay idols in a small sump located in their next lane. "For the past 13 years, we have been installing only clay idols. For immersion, we take it from our premises to a sump in the nearby lane. Next morning, our person goes and removes the floating bamboo sticks,straw and strings and flower garlands. Then water is removed and the sump is cleaned," says Sanghamitra Malik, secretary of the residential association.
In a nutshell: the best way to go eco-friendly is to make clay idols and immerse them in small water sumps or tubs. Hopefully, the government is listening.