Linah Baliga, Mumbai Mirror, 22 September 2018
The visarjan of Ganpati idols on Wednesday, the seventh day of the ongoing festival, has taken a toll on marine life along the city’s coastline. On Thursday and Friday morning, thousands of dead fish and turtles had washed ashore on Dadar and Juhu beaches.
Experts say the immersion harms marine animals mainly due to the plaster of Paris (PoP) used to make most idols, the lead in their paints, and the nirmalya (flower offerings) that go with them. This year too, both beaches were choked with Ganpati idols and nirmalaya from the visarjan.
Chinu Kwatra, who led the Beach Warriors team of 30 volunteers, said the fish had died because of the toxic pigments used in PoP idols, as well as the bacterial load from decomposing flowers, prasad and other offerings that make their way into the sea during visarjan.
“The paints used in idols contain metals such as chromium, lead, aluminium and copper, which dissolve and turn into toxic compounds in water. This damages the gills of fish. Also, PoP has the ability to reduce oxygen levels in the water. And as the nirmalya decomposes, bacteria from it consume the oxygen dissolved in water, and fish die because there isn’t enough oxygen left,” Kwatra said.
“They never went into the sea. We give them to the BMC to turn into chalk. Due to the festival, plastic too has made a comeback. The beach is back to the same scenario as it was last year. This festival shouldn’t just be for enjoyment; there should be some responsibility towards the environment by using eco-friendly idols and immersing them in artificial ponds. Devotees believe they don’t get “punya” if they don’t immerse idols in the sea, and so refuse to bend rituals. This mindset has still not changed,” Kwatra said.
Stalin D, director of the NGO Vanashakti, said the biological oxygen demand (BOD) and chemical oxygen demand (COD) are beyond control in the sea. “The BOD and COD determine if marine life will survive. Untreated sewage water let into the sea is also adding to the pollution. On top of that, PoP idols spell doom for all marine life and water bodies. PoP literally kills the oxygen in water. And the paints have lead and arsenic in them. This chemical contamination leads to the death of fish and a variety of other marine life,” said Stalin.
Debi Goenka, executive trustee, Conservation Action Trust, said that at this time of the year, the currents stay close to the shore. “So there is not much dilution of the water, and polluted water builds up along the shore. This has led to the fish dying,” Goenka said.
The paints used in idols contain metals such as chromium, lead, aluminium and copper, which dissolve and turn into toxic compounds in water. This damages the gills of fish. Also, PoP has the ability to reduce oxygen levels in the water