KOLKATA: Even as civic bodies in Kolkata and Howrah grapple with the challenge of keeping the Hooghly clean during immersions, green activist Subhas Datta has urged Puja organizers in the twin cities to learn from their counterparts in Mumbai, Delhi and Gurgaon where innovative ways to carry out the ritual have been adopted to reduce the river pollution load.
“This year, several Puja committees have adopted environ ment as their core theme. Yet, when it comes to immersion, they don’t adopt green and clean practices that have been embraced by people in other cities. In Mumbai, many societies that organize Ganesha Puja immerse idols in pits filled with water.The idea has caught up in Gurgaon this year with a couple of Durga Puja committees employing the same method,” he pointed out.
It was based on Datta’s PIL on immersion that the situation changed somewhat in Kolkata, with cranes being deployed to pull out the structures after immersion. But Datta wished people would voluntarily give up river immersions to adopt innovative practices.
Partha Dey of Bangiyo Parishad, the Puja commmittee in Gurgaon that had initiated the non-polluting way of immersion last year and inspired four more to join in this year, said it was difficult to break from tradition when religious rituals are concerned. But it wasn’t impossible in the face of perseverance.”One has to overcome the emotional challenges through open discussion within the Puja committee. It makes so much sense to immerse the Goddess in clean water and to not add to the river pollution,” he said.
In south Delhi’s Chittaran jan Park, two Puja committees have been immersing idols in a temporary tank. “Thousands of idols are immersed in the river, causing irreparable damage.We then try to spend crores to clean up the mess. We want to take these small steps to help with the cleaning process,” said Tamal Rakshit of B-Block Puja Committee.
Datta said a cluster of Puja committees in Kolkata and Howrah can similarly create temporary tanks to conduct immersions. “KMC had a proposal to create a tank near Doi Ghat to immerse idols, but it was never followed up. Durga Puja committees in Kolkata could also try what Kali Puja organizers do in Barasat -spray water on idols to melt the clay,” he added.
This year, many idols in peripheral areas of the city were immersed in local ponds with police maintaining a strict vigil.”We removed decorations from the idols, which were then immersed and immediately removed from the water. It was much better than going to theriver,” said the organizer of a housing society Puja in Naktala.