Delhi shows the way on celebrating festivals, idol immersion and all, and fighting pollution at the same time.
Indian cities have not done too well on battling environmental pollution. The relevant laws are mostly observed in their flouting. Delhi, however, has turned a new leaf. The city made sure that the Durga Puja celebrations—idol immersions are a key ritual—would not contribute to the pollution of the Yamuna. The city police patrolled the Yamuna area keeping a check on all activity across the river bank, and diverting people to immersion pits created across the city. India has had a lax attitude towards environmental pollution. Religion has often taken precedence. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) only listed guidelines for idol immersion after the Bombay High Court asked it to do so. While these were released in 2010, and the issue of immersion pits is raised each year by NGT, guidelines have rarely been followed.
Despite CPCB reports highlighting the impact of idol immersion, people have repeatedly ignored warnings. CPCB’s Impacts of Dussehra Festival on the River Hooghly: A case study, showed that, every year, at least 15,000 idols of the goddess are immersed in the Hooghly River. This releases 16.8 tonnes of varnish and garjan oil and 32 tonnes of colours, leading to an increase of 0.99 milligram per litre (mg/l) of oil and grease, and of 0.104 mg/l concentration of heavy metals, like manganese, lead, mercury and chromium. A similar report for Bengaluru found a 100% increase in TDS due to immersion. Delhi’s success shows that, with effective implementation and coordinated action, the state can curb the menace of environmental pollution. This can certainly serve as a template for other Indian cities; that said, Delhi needs to sustain this success year after year to make a meaningful impact and follow it up with a less polluting Diwali.