Every year after the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations, devotees clog water bodies across the country by dumping millions of clay and plaster of Paris idols just as they overwhelm the remover of obstacles with their prayers.
Though ecologists strongly argue in favour of clay idols, the demand for PoP Ganeshas has pushed its production and sale. With disinterested lawmakers, NGOs and environmentalists have mellowed down their voices and administrators too say it is impossible to ban PoP idols.
A quick tour of a market in Delhi, where PoP idols are sold, reveals that they are not only cheaper to produce due to easy availability of synthesized plaster of Paris, worshipers too prefer them because of their intricate design and details. They are not as delicate as the clay ones and are lighter on the pocket as well as to carry.
"There is no demand for clay models now. People do not even understand the difference. These idols look better and more attractive, so are sold more," said a PoP idol maker, who did not wish to be named, at South Delhi's Sarojini Nagar market.
He buys a 12-15-inch basic, unfinished idol for roughly Rs 400, cleans, paints and decorates and sells it for around Rs 1,100-1,500. Those which remain unsold are recycled next year ensuring a better profit margin.
Sometimes, "sentiments and rituals" hurt nature too.
Mumbai-based journalist Bhargav Lumpatki said the local "shaadu" clay models are available only in smaller sizes and do not fit into certain household's "norms" of worship.
Sharing an example of his friend's family, Lumpatki said: "They establish a murti of 21 inches only since their pandit says anything lesser is not permitted. And as that size is not available in shaadu maati (clay), they have to go for PoP."
In Maharashtra, the "sarvajanik" or public Ganesha idols could stand at anything between 1 foot and 51 feet. Post-immersion, tonnes of debris from these idols accumulate on Juhu and Goregaon beaches, choke rivers, lakes and ponds.
Sanjay Chinchole, convenor of Nagpur's Santi Ganeshotsava Mandal, expressed displeasure at how idol makers have turned "commercial" to satisfy all demands of their clients and do not even understand what the elephant-headed god stands for.
"There's no height restriction. This year, the markets have many Ganeshas posing as Baahubali or in rage. Do these idol-makers even know Ganesha?" said Chinchole.
Chinchole suggested that Nagpur Municipal Corporation should allow only those Ganesha mandals to set-up pandals which buy clay idols. He said Maharashtra Pollution Control Board is showing the way by organising 'clay-only idol' exhibitions across the state to promote the importance of environment-friendly ones.
Yet others say papier mache idols are even better than the clay ones.
"PoP idols dissolve in nearly three to four months while those made of paper pulp take three days," said Avinash Kubal, deputy director of Maharashtra Nature Park Society.
But it's not just clay or PoP, marine biologists warn against using highly toxic paints which have poisonous substances like mercury, lead and sulphur. These chemicals poison the water not just killing the fish, but also risk the life of those who consume such fish.
So when you go to the market today, bring home an idol that is safe for the environment and also choose wisely where to immerse it - a small tank in your courtyard or a bucket.
Have a safe and wise Ganeshotsava.
Ganpati Bappa Morya!