India Court Wants Biodegradable Idols for River Immersion

By Madhur Singh

India's National Green Tribunal has directed the governments of three central states to ensure that idols being prepared for immersion in rivers during upcoming religious festivals are biodegradable, do not use synthetic paint and are not larger than the approved size.

The Hindu rituals of Ganesh Chaturthi and Durga Puja in September and October involve immersing statues of gods and goddesses in rivers.

And during the first month of the Islamic calendar, which this year lasts from mid October to mid-November, Shia Muslims immerse Taziyas—miniature imitations of the mausoleums of Karbala used in ritual processions.

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The practice of immersing religious idols and objects, some of them large, has exacerbated river pollution in India. A government report in July sought stricter regulation of the immersion of such religious idols.

But the National Green Tribunal Aug. 18 noted that guidelines on idol immersion issued by the Central Pollution Control Board and the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, are being disregarded.

It said artisans preparing idols ahead of religious festivals are using plaster of Paris, nonsoluble substances like plastic and baked clay, synthetic colors and dyes, and other materials that can severely pollute river water.

The Tribunal directed the governments of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh states to order district administrations and local authorities to ensure that no synthetic material or plaster of Paris is used to make idols for the Ganesh Chaturthi festival in September and the Durga Puja festival in October.

It also said the governments should issue warnings to those preparing these idols that their goods are liable to be confiscated if offered for sale. And it said they should ensure that immersion of idols and Taziyas takes place only at designated spots prepared by the local authorities in accordance with the Central Pollution Control Board guidelines.

To contact the reporter on this story: Madhur Singh in Chandigarh, India, at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Greg Henderson at ghenderson@bna.com

India's National Green Tribunal order is available at http://bit.ly/1JPlv05.