In Mumbai, Ganesh Chaturthi is undoubtedly one of the biggest festivals of the year. From gigantic idols of the deity to an ambience of excitement all around, the otherwise busy city dresses in all pompous colours for those ten days. However, as the citizens bid adieu to their God amidst maddening celebrations, a pitiful fate awaits the God who was revered utmost just a while ago.
“I am a devout worshipper of Lord Ganesh for the last twenty-four years. But, it pains me to see the condition of my God after ‘visarjan’ (immersion). The idols are lying there in tattered pieces. Their hands, legs, trunks are broken,” Chinu Jeet Kwatra from Aarna Foundation shared with The Logical Indian. This year, Chinu, founder of NGO Aarna Foundation, along with AIESEC and Let’s Do It, has gathered over a thousand volunteers to collect the broken idols from Juhu and Dadar beaches, which were later handed over to Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) officials for proper disposal.
Immersion of the idols lead to pollution
Despite some recent change in the trend with many people opting for eco-friendly alternatives like clay idols, Tree Ganesh etc., a majority continue to worship idols made of Plaster of Paris (PoP) and coated with harmful chemical paints. When these idols are immersed in bulk numbers, inevitably the seawater, and the beaches get severely polluted. It takes more than several months or even years for these idols to dissolve completely.
Following the ‘visarjan’ (immersion) of the Ganesh idols, the Mumbai beaches are a sorry sight. Due to the presence of excess chemicals, most of the idols remain undissolved and their broken parts are returned to the beaches by the waves. Added to this, the heavy metals contained in the chemical paints leak into the seawater and pose a threat to marine life.
Chinu and his “Beach Warriors”
Disturbed by the unfortunate fate of the idols, Chinu and his foundation decided to come forward to change the scenario. Since last year, they have initiated the beach clean-up operation, starting from Dadar beach. “Last year we started the cleaning drive after Ganesh ‘visarjan’. We had a smaller team of 50-60 volunteers then who co-operated actively with us throughout the year to keep the beach clean. This year the response was overwhelming,” shares Chinu.
This year, Chinu collaborated with two prominent youth NGOs – AIESEC and Let’s Do It. Through multiple social media posts on Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, they brought together over a thousand young enthusiasts, mostly students, who actively volunteered for the beach clean-up campaign. On 14th September, the young army worked hard to scan the beaches, collecting broken pieces of the idols with utmost care and later handing them over to Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) officials.
Chinu’s “Beach Warriors”, as they designated themselves, cleaned the Dadar and Juhu beaches which face the most pollution from Ganesh idol immersions. “After the first round of clean-up, we collected over fifty different-sized idols and numerous broken remnants. We have organised a few more rounds of clean-up after that, and each time a lot of volunteers have turned up to help us. Right at this moment, I am standing at Dadar beach with my team and I can spot over 200 idols scattered all over the beach,” Chinu shared with The Logical Indian while gearing up for another milestone to achieve. The team is organising more clean-up drives in the upcoming weeks.
The Logical Indian take
Chinu Kwatra and his associate volunteers have done an incredible job to protect the sanctity of the deity as well as the environment. They have set a shining example for the society to follow. Alongside, as responsible citizens, we must always ensure that our negligence towards the environment does not mar our festive spirit.
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