Central pollution board bans all PoP idols

In an order that will impact the way Ganeshotsav is celebrated in Maharashtra, the Central Pollution Control Board has banned the use of Plaster of Paris in making idols in order to avoid polluting water bodies by their immersion. The use of thermocol and plastic has also been outlawed.While environmentalists are happy, artisans say the order will aggravate unemployment amid the already damaging lockdown.

While Maharashtra has effected its own ban on plastic and thermocol, CPCB’s ban on PoP will alter the landscape for competitive mandals that create 12-25ft tall murtis. Reshma Khatu, who owns one of the largest idol-making units in Mumbai said, “Workshops in a city like Pen have already made idols for this year. In Mumbai we have not yet manufactured anything. In this lockdown everyone is worried about income. At a time like this, the government should not be strict. I hope the state will think about us and the utsav. (Eco-friendly) clay can only be used to craft idols 3-4 ft tall. Larger idols become heavy to carry and can even crack, which is inauspicious as per our scriptures. Lakhs of artisans are dependent on this festival.”

Late Wednesday night, the idol makers’ association called a meeting to discuss the order. Its president Gajanan Tondwalkar said, “We don’t think mandals will agree to bring small idols.”

But green activists said the move will go a long way in protecting the marine ecosystem. “PoP idols, when immersed, cause toxic pollution, which affects marine biodiversity such as fishes. Often the pieces of PoP, along with thermocol and plastic items, remain in that state for a long time after immersion,” said D Stalin of the NGO Vanshakti.

Director of NatConnect Foundation, B N Kumar, said, “Earlier, locals used to make Ganpati idols with eco-friendly clay. But due to commercialisation of the festival, many started mass-producing idols with PoP as it was good for business.”

CPCB’s revised guidelines say, “Idols made up of Plaster of Paris shall be banned.” It has issued guidelines for idol-makers, pooja committees, local and urban authorities, and households.

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