This Ganeshotsav, Mumbai gets idols that even fish can eat

  • Badri Chatterjee, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Aug 31, 2015 22:59 IST
A Mumbai-based NGO has created Ganesh idols with corn and vegetable powder – ingredients that can be consumed by marine organisms.

With Ganeshotsav drawing near, Mumbaiites are being offered an alternative to plaster-of-Paris (PoP), clay and papier-mache idols. A Mumbai-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) has created idols with corn and vegetable powder – ingredients that can be consumed by marine organisms – and coloured with natural materials such as turmeric, chandan and geru.

The nine-inch idols have been created by Sprouts Environmental Trust, with support from a private company that designed the campaign. “Forty idols are being made at Nagpur and we have received orders from across the country,” said Anand Pendharkar, founder, NGO Sprouts. “These idols would dissolve within four to five hours of immersion.”

Over a span of one-and-a-half months, two senior creative directors from the company designed the campaign ‘God save the ocean’. Srreram Athray and Elizabeth Dias said a lot of research had gone into the making. “We had to test the idol properly as there are chances that one of the main ingredients – the vegetable powder - could deteriorate,” said Athray.

“We contacted a person from Nagpur, who had made idols out of chocolate. He said we could go ahead with the idea,” said Dias.

Experts say these would reduce waste seen after immersions. “The natural ingredients will be consumed by small fish which in turn will be eaten by larger fish. Even if these particles are not consumed, they become detritus (dead particulate organic matter) that is further consumed by other marine organisms like detritivores,” said Dr Nandini Deshmukh, marine biologist. The idols are only available on first-come-first-serve basis online. The group plans to make close to 4,000 idols next year.

Which idol would you use this Ganesh festival?
Plaster of Paris (PoP)
* Made from Gypsum, which is heated up to 150 degrees Celsius. It is also used for making casts for broken bones.
* PoP idols are the cheapest as it involves little labour – Rs 500 to Rs 1,000, depending on the size
* Takes months to completely dissolve in water bodies

Shadu Clay
* Made of fine particles of silt, generally whitish in colour
* Expensive compared to PoP – 18 kg clay idol costs Rs 5,000
* Takes two to three weeks to dissolve, leaves the water murky

Papier Mache
* Made out of paper and glue, or paper, flour and water, which become hard when dry
* Soluble in free-flowing water within one-and-a-half hours and stable water in three hours
* More expensive than clay idols – 18 kg clay idol costs Rs 5,500

Natural idols (vegetable powder and natural colour)
* Made from a combination of corn powder, spinach powder and painted with natural colours such as turmeric, chandan and geru, all held together by a minimal amount of clay
* Completely soluble in water within four to five hours
* Cost: Rs 900 for a nine-inch idol

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