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Thursday, Nov 14, 2019

Durga idols immersions today, litmus test for Delhi government to keep Yamuna clean

Idol immersions during Durga Puja, which is supposed to happen only in artificial ponds this year to protect the Yamuna, is likely to be a litmus test for the Delhi government, civic agencies and over 500 Durga Puja committees in the city on Tuesday.

delhi Updated: Oct 08, 2019 07:24 IST
Abhishek Dey
Abhishek Dey
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
An artificial pond for Durga Puja idol immersion  at Block D, CR Park in New Delhi. Several Puja committees hve dug out artificial ponds themselves close to the puja venues while the government and civic agencies created as many as 116 ponds in Delhi for the others.
An artificial pond for Durga Puja idol immersion at Block D, CR Park in New Delhi. Several Puja committees hve dug out artificial ponds themselves close to the puja venues while the government and civic agencies created as many as 116 ponds in Delhi for the others.(Burhaan Kinu / HT Photo )
         

The wait was getting long and anxious for a team of construction workers engaged in digging up an artificial pond in South Delhi’s Greater Kailash neighbourhood. The 8,000 cubic feet capacity artificial water body was dug up by the Delhi government for immersion of idols in Durga Puja this year. Plastic sheets were spread inside the pond to stop percolation of water and an embankment was created in the peripheries of the pond – leaving one side open – but the water needed to fill the artificial pond was yet to arrive.

“The traffic is awful and it seems like the tanker is stuck somewhere,” said one of the workers.

Idol immersions during Durga Puja, which is supposed to happen only in artificial ponds this year to protect the Yamuna, is likely to be a litmus test for the Delhi government, civic agencies and over 500 Durga Puja committees in the city on Tuesday.

While several Durga Puja committees dug out artificial ponds themselves close to the puja venues, the government and civic agencies created as many as 116 ponds in Delhi for the others.

This year, the government has imposed strict prohibition on immersion of idols in the Yamuna ghats in adherence to observations of a National Green Tribunal-appointed committee last month.

Senior government officials said that for every pond, schedules have been prepared and all Puja committees in vicinity that are registered for immersion in those ponds have been given time slots, a senior government official said.

Concerns and Confusions

With less than 24 hours left for the immersions, all stakeholders shared common concerns over multiple issues — whether the dimensions of the ponds would be adequate, whether the ponds would be able to accommodate multiple idols in limited space, how the immersions will be scheduled, and more.

Till late on Monday, government officers in charge of the different ponds under their jurisdiction were holding meetings to chalk out the final plan.

“The pond here is too small and around 10 idols from two pandals have to go into it. We don’t understand how to do it. But we have directions to do so and such directions are difficult to accept,” said Anup Acharya, committee member in one of the puja committees in south Delhi’s C R Park.

The artificial pond in question here measures 1,680 cubic feet.

An artificial pond for Durga Puja idol immersion at Greater Kailash II, New Delhi.
An artificial pond for Durga Puja idol immersion at Greater Kailash II, New Delhi. ( Burhaan Kinu / HT Photo )

A senior government official said that district revenue officers were told to engage with all Durga Puja committees under their jurisdiction, and get a sense of the total number of idols to be immersed in each pond and their measurements.

“That is how the dimensions of the artificial ponds were decided. Each are different in terms of length, breadth and depth. But also, this is the first such experiment, so there is a lack of certainty about many things. But we will make sure that things go smooth,” said a sub-divisional magistrate who did not wish to be identified.

The second major concern happens to be how multiple idols will be immersed in an artificial pond with limited space. The government said, a parallel mechanism has been put in place to ensure that immersed idols are simultaneously lifted and kept aside so that, at any given point of time, the ritual does not get disrupted.

“We will engage both men and machines, such as cranes, for this purpose. We have reserved space near every artificial pond where the remains of the immersed idols will be stocked and that, eventually, has to be taken care of by civic agencies,” a senior revenue official said.

Officials in the municipal corporations said that the disposal is likely to follow the protocol that applies normally to disposal of solid waste materials on a regular basis.

“What about the sentiments involved? We cannot let the idols break or get dismantled during the ritual at any cost,” said Robin Bose, member of the Puja Committee in Kashmere Gate, which happens to be Delhi’s oldest.

The Countdown

The last 24 hours are crucial in terms of coordination, which is a really difficult job here, said a senior government official.

Multiple departments are involved in the process, which includes the district revenue officers, irrigation and flood control, Delhi Jal Board (DJB), power, public works department, urban shelter board and health, other than the DDA, civic agencies and Delhi Police. The government has also repaired roads leading to the artificial ponds, made adequate arrangements for lights, deploy fire tenders, ambulances and civil defence volunteers, senior government officials said.

Senior officials in the Delhi government said that they are helping the Durga Puja Committees in the coordination. “We are constantly receiving calls. There is confusion among people but we are doing our best to allay all concerns,” a revenue officer said.

Another major job to be done in the last day was to let each Puja Durga committee about the immersion schedule and timings for their turn, amid immense confusion among many of them over whether the directions on immersions strictly in artificial ponds were full and final. On late Monday evening, several of them had organised committee meetings to decide on the next steps.