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Monday, Oct 21, 2019

Yamuna ghats cleaner, but waste management still a challenge

cities Updated: Oct 09, 2019 22:40 IST
Soumya Pillai and Vatsala Shrangi
Soumya Pillai and Vatsala Shrangi

New Delhi

Durga idols and puja decorations lying on the banks of the Yamuna — a sight common after immersions on Vijaya Dashami — was nowhere to be seen this year. However, even though no complaints of idol immersion in the Yamuna were reported this time, the task of managing waste at artificial ponds turned out to be a major challenge.

This was the first time that the Delhi government, on the recommendation of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), had prohibited immersion of idols in the Yamuna. Senior Delhi government officials said that even though the artificial ponds for immersions was dug up by them, the local municipalities will be responsible for managing the waste collected at these spots.

On Wednesday, the three municipalities began clearing the debris and plastic waste from around the artificial ponds in their areas. Senior officials managing the exercise said that while the cleaning of neighbourhood ponds has already begun, the cleaning of larger venues — such as Kalindi Kunj and Astha Kunj near Nehru Place — will take a few days.

“We are waiting for the remains to dry and then they will be cleared completely in a day or two,” an east Delhi municipal corporation (EDMC) official said.

The official added that no orders have been given to them on handling the remains any differently.

“We will manage the waste collected like we handle all solid waste,” he said.

Though the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) does not have a record of the number of idols immersed into the Yamuna river every year, Delhi police records show that there are nearly 500 Durga puja pandals that are setup in the city every year, which add harmful material such as plaster of Paris (POP), paint, plastic and metal into the river water.

Ravi Agarwal, director, Toxics Link, an NGO working in waste management, said that the initiative of not allowing idol immersion in the Yamuna was a welcome initiative but a lot needs to be done in the area of waste management.

“What is commendable is that there is a start. Plaster of Paris takes months to dissolve and turns the water chalky. Plus, heavy metals like lead and mercury go up manifold when toxic paints used on the idols are dunked in rivers and ponds. This is poisonous for fishes and other aqua fauna,” he said.

He added that a comprehensive plan of waste management will go a long way in helping the government agencies reap full benefits of this initiative.

Delhi government officials said that in the last 24 hours no violations had been reported.

“The immersion of Durga idols was smooth and there was proper coordination. We have not received any complaints or violations in this regard. We have rather received all the cooperation from the puja samitis in bringing the idols to the sites. This has set a good example for years to come and will certainly help keep the river clean in terms of immersing idols and puja offerings,” said a senior Delhi government official, associated with the arrangement.

Another officer looking after operations in southeast Delhi, which has Kalindi Kunj—one of the major idol immersion sites—under its jurisdiction, said, “We have not come across any violations as such. The immersions were conducted in a smooth and eco-friendly manner.”

First Published: Oct 09, 2019 22:40 IST

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