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Sunday, Sep 22, 2019

Artificial ponds help keep Yamuna cleaner, fewer snarls reported

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) had banned idol immersion in the Yamuna in 2015, it was only this year that the authorities implemented the order. The push came from an NGT-appointed committee which directed government authorities to use artificial ponds for immersion.

delhi Updated: Sep 12, 2019 22:19 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
New Delhi
A devotee immerses an idol of Lord Ganesh at a temporary pond on the last day of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival at a park, at Kalkaji.
A devotee immerses an idol of Lord Ganesh at a temporary pond on the last day of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival at a park, at Kalkaji.(Burhaan Kinu/HT PHOTO)
         

Every year, Nikhil Bhonsle, 35, a resident of Vivek Vihar, used to immerse the small Ganesh idol, which is family worshipped at home during the eight-day festival in the River Yamuna. This time, however, it was different. Breaking tradition for the first time, this year Bhonsle and his wife Aarti went to a temporary artificial pond dug by the authorities near the CBD Ground in Shahdara to immerse the idol.

“Initially, we had gone to the Yamuna near Geeta Colony to immerse the idol but we were stopped by the police and asked to take the idol and the puja offerings to an artificial pond. We were not the only ones. Many devotees were sent back by the police. It was good to see the Yamuna looking cleaner after the festival this year, compared to the previous years when it would become a mess,” Aarti said.

Even though Ganesha idol immersion has been going on for the past few days, the maximum number of idols was immersed on the last two days – Wednesday and Thursday.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) had banned idol immersion in the Yamuna in 2015, it was only this year that the authorities implemented the order. The push came from an NGT-appointed committee which directed government authorities to use artificial ponds for immersion.

HOW PONDS HELPED TO KEEP THE YAMUNA CLEAN

Citizens were stopped by the police and volunteers from immersing idols in the river, and artificial ponds were dug up in at least 116 places across all districts in Delhi.

“While some districts have a few permanent artificial ponds, most were dug a few days ago to facilitate the bulk of immersion activity. In some locations, more than one pond was dug up,” said an official of the irrigation and flood control department.

Plastic sheets were placed at the bottom of the ponds so that the polluted water doesn’t percolate into the ground. The Delhi Jal Board (DJB) filled the ponds with water and the civic bodies removed the idols soon after the immersion.

“Every time an idol was immersed I could see the water change its colour because of the toxic chemicals in the paints. All these would have gone into the Yamuna had the artificial ponds not been dug up. This is an excellent move,” said Alok Pawde, a resident of Mayur Vihar.

Tests carried out by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) after Durga Puja and Ganesh Puja immersions in 2018 revealed that concentrations of chromium, lead, nickel and mercury, among other toxic chemicals, had shot up several times rending the Yamuna waters unfit for bathing.

IMMERSION IN PONDS ALSO EASED TRAFFIC

This decentralization of the immersion process also helped the police to manage the traffic better this time.

Earlier, when idols were only immersed in the river, roads leading to the Yamuna would see massive traffic congestion as people gathered in large numbers. Heavy traffic jams would be reported between Mukarba Chaowk and Kashmere Gate till late in the night on the last two days, the police said.

“But this year, as people are going to the artificial ponds in and around their localities, the same crowd has dispersed, leading to fewer snarls,” joint commissioner of police (east) Alok Kumar said.

Police officers said this also helped the security agencies control the crowds, which were smaller, and maintain law and order with ease.

“Whenever there is a huge gathering, such as an idol immersion procession, there is heavy police deployment. But the need for deployment is lower if the crowd is dispersed across several places,” a senior police officer said.

MORE ELABORATE ARRANGEMENTS FOR DURGA PUJA

Buoyed by the positive response to immersion in artificial ponds, the state government is now planning to make more elaborate arrangements for Durga Puja, which will start on October 4.

“This was the first time that such an elaborate arrangement was made. It is bound to have some shortcomings. We will plug the gaps next time,” said a senior official of the environment department.

Officials added that they’re planning to provide help desks for citizens to find the locations of artificial ponds, the routes and mobile toilets at the sites during the Durga Puja immersion on October 8.

First Published: Sep 12, 2019 21:15 IST