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NGT panel suggests pits, artificial ponds for idol immersion to curb pollution in Yamuna

The issue of idol immersion becomes all the more important for Delhi because pollution level in the Yamuna spikes manifold after immersions every year.

delhi Updated: Jan 29, 2019 12:41 IST
Joydeep Thakur
Joydeep Thakur
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
idol immersion in Yamuna,pollution in yamuna river,NGT
Devotees immerse Goddess Durga idol in Yamuna river at Kalindi Kunj , October 19, 2018. (Mohd Zakir/HT File )

To bring down post-immersion pollution in the River Yamuna, a National Green Tribunal-appointed committee has directed authorities in the national capital to explore the possibility of creating artificial ponds and pits in various localities for idol immersion.

The suggestion — besides others such as restricting height of idols to a maximum of three feet — came from the government authorities and was discussed in a meeting held in December, 2018, by the two-member NGT-appointed Yamuna pollution monitoring committee.

“Idol immersion should be banned in River Yamuna and replaced by artificial ponds in RWAs and on empty land space,” read one of the suggestions that came from the divisional commissioner and was discussed in the meeting.

The cue was taken from Surat in Gujarat, which recently set an example by not allowing any idol immersion in the River Tapi. According to a report prepared by the Surat Police Commissioner, at least 22 artificial ponds were created in the city before Ganapati immersion in September, 2018. Earlier, more than 6,000 such idols used to be immersed in the River Tapti from 33 platforms.

“The possibility of using colony/locality-wise pits needs to be discussed and a decision taken. Delhi needs to create sufficient artificial ponds before issuing a notification that immersion would be permitted only in designated ponds,” said the monitoring committee, which has already submitted its comments to the NGT.

The issue becomes all the more important for Delhi because pollution level in the Yamuna spikes manifold after immersions every year. 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 had shot up several times rending the Yamuna water unfit for bathing.

“Simply banning idol immersion in the Yamuna won’t help. We need an integrated and holistic approach. We have also suggested that POP and chemical paints should be banned in idol making. The authorities should also fix the height of idols up a maximum of three feet. Use of microphones and sound systems should be restricted,” said K Mahesh, district magistrate of east Delhi, who was present in the meeting held by the monitoring committee.

Government authorities have also been asked to send a team to Surat to see how immersions could be managed during Durga Puja and Ganesh Puja to bring down pollution in the Yamuna River from 2019.

“It is a very welcome move. A systematic and target oriented approach rather than knee-jerk reactions at the last minute are necessary to bring down post-immersion pollution in Yamuna. The example of Surat is worth exploring,” said Manoj Misra,convenor of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan.

The committee in its report to the NGT has suggested that district wise data on pandals for both Ganesh and Durga puja should be collected to see whether the numbers are increasing every year.

The number of pandals, idols and steps taken by the city administration of Surat, Ahmedabad and Rajkot should be studied to understand how it was managed there...” the report stated.

Although at least four meetings were held in September and October 2018, it was too late to bring any change in the post immersion pollution levels in the river, last year. The committee has asked the authorities to prepare plans between January and March with monthly targets so that post-immersion pollution could be brought down in 2019.

First Published: Jan 29, 2019 12:40 IST