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Tuesday, Oct 15, 2019

All drains polluting Gomti will be plugged in six months, says Lucknow DM

  Updated: Oct 10, 2019 21:51 IST

It was indeed a Durga Puja with a difference in Lucknow this year. For the first time in the 125-year history of the puja celebrations in the city, all idols were immersed in artificial ponds, instead of the Gomti.

In a candid chat with HT, Lucknow district magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma, the brain behind the idea, revealed how the district administration managed to achieve the seemingly impossible task. Sharma also shared his plans to bring down pollution in the Gomti, often referred to as the city’s lifeline.

Where did you get the idea to have idols immersed in artificial ponds, instead of the Gomti? What difficulties did you face in convincing the puja committees to accept this cultural change?

We conceived the idea of immersing idols in artificial ponds two years ago when I got posted to Lucknow as the DM. Back then, none of the samitis were ready to accept the change. But I, along with my team, continued to apprise them in order to save the Gomti. Although the court order on idol immersion is for the Yamuna and Ganga, we tried to convince the samitis to replicate this change here in the Gomti in order to save the fading lifeline of the city. Durga Puja samitis got convinced by the idea (eventually). Initially, they (samitis) stopped using harmful chemicals and artificial flowers (at our request) to decorate the idols. This year, we ensured that all idols were immersed in artificial ponds to celebrate Durga Puja in a traditional but pollution free way. I thank Durga Puja samitis, civil defence volunteers, my team of administrative officials, Nagar Nigam and other departments that made this possible. It’s indeed a good feeling that we managed to reduce pollution in the Gomti as all idols were immersed in the artificial ponds, and not in the river.

Some samitis staged sit-ins after a few idols got damaged while being lowered by cranes. Some people alleged inadequate preparations on the district administration’s part. How do you see the criticism and allegations?

See, no one is perfect. I do admit that one or two incidents did happen where idols got damaged while the officials tried to immerse them through cranes but that was purely a mistake, which is quite common during an event of such a large magnitude. Barring one or two, almost all the samitis were not only convinced, but also satisfied with our services, which all of us rendered voluntarily. Basically, the idea to use cranes in idol immersion came from the samiitis themselves. Those samitis which objected to handling of idols were also free to carry out the immersion manually. We never forced anyone to use a crane to ensure idol immersion. Also, we came to know that some samitis pointed out that the number of ponds dug were less. But the fact is that the idea to have only eight ponds came from the samitis. The district administration had plans to create at least 15 ponds. The next time we would ensure that everything is perfect. We are open to suggestions and would also train the crane drivers to handle idols carefully while carrying out the immersion.

Will this change be only for Durga Puja samitis and not for others like the organisers of Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations?

Other than Durga Puja, we also have plans to keep a check on the immersion of idols during Ganesh Chaturthi that is also now a trend in the state capital. This year, too we were determined to keep tabs on the immersion of idols during Ganesh Chaturthi. But since the festival coincided with Muharram, the administration was busy with Muharram processions. From next year, we would try to maintain a data base of the individuals, bodies, organisations or samitis that celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi. Similar arrangements would be made (as done during the Durga Puja) to facilitate idol immersion during Ganesh Chaturthi.

What about the pollution caused by the drains emptying into the Gomti?

We are equally concerned about drains discharging pollutants into the river. Things are already moving. I assure that in the next six months all drains falling into the river would be plugged. Two things are being done to make the river pollution-free. The first is the construction of STPs that would treat sewage before their discharge into the river Gomti. Second, the divisional commissioner is making efforts to start the intercepting trunk drain that aims to check the inflow of more than 25 drains into the river. The drain runs parallel to the Gomti on either side and is designed to collect sewage, pass it on to STP before discharging it into the Gomti. The intercepting drain work was stopped after an inquiry was ordered into Gomti River Front Project. We are now trying to complete the drain (with permission) to check discharge into the river.

After Diwali too, people immerse the old idols and puja material. What check would the district administration place on such acts?

This Diwali, I would like to appeal citizens to not immerse idols in the Gomti, nor leave them beneath trees, which also amounts to showing disrespect. I extend an appeal to the people, either to dig a small pit in their communities to bury the idols or to hand them over to NGOs. We also have plans to install a net or fence along the Gandhi Setu on the Gomti in to prevent people from throwing puja material into the river. Besides, we have plans to retain at least four ponds round the year to check immersion in the river. The ponds will be dedicated to idol immersion.


First Published: Oct 10, 2019 21:51 IST

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