The high-pitched campaign against the use of Plaster of Paris (PoP) Ganesha idols ahead of this year’s Ganesh Chaturthi by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board and many NGOs seems to have paid off. According to the BBMP’s latest data, less than 2 per cent of the idols that were immersed in the first few days of the festival were made of PoP.
Officials said in the six zones in the city, only 3,871 (1.44%) out of the 2,67,772 idols immersed in Bengaluru are made of PoP. Officials said that the data for two zones – Mahadevpura and Yehalanka zones – is still being collected.
This trend was observed on Monday as well, the first day of the idol immersion for this year’s festivities. Only 1,654 out of 1,91,247 (0.86%) idols immersed in the whole city were made of PoP. This was comparatively lesser than the previous years – 6,000 out of 52,000 in 2018 and 12,000 out of 2,00,000 in 2017, as per the first-day figures.
Vishwanath, Chief Engineer, Solid Waste Management, BBMP said, “This is the result of the continuous efforts of the KSPCB and BBMP in the last three-four years. The general public has also understood the importance of not using PoP. Since there is an awareness, obviously the demand for PoP has gone down.”
Apart from the awareness campaigns, BBMP had carried out drives seizing PoP idols from key areas in the city ahead of the festival. The KSPCB had also asked the 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.
PoP idols have been banned by the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) for a while now and the ban was reinforced in 2017 when the Karnataka High Court dismissed the writ petitions against the ban and upheld the KSPCB’s decision. PoP idols are bad for the environment, as studies have shown a steep increase in the levels of heavy metals, acids, and a decrease in dissolved oxygen among other things in water bodies where the idols are immersed.
The fate of PoP idols
All the idols seized by various authorities or recovered after immersion are handed over to Rock Crystals, a company that won the bid to run BBMP’s construction waste recycling unit.