River pollution due to idol immersion during popular festivals such as Durga Puja is a problem that is increasingly not just limited to big cities but small-town India too.
Stricter environmental norms in cognizance of this issue will hopefully bring change, however small. In line with a National Green Tribunal (NGT) order that prohibits immersion of idols or floral wastes in rivers and natural water bodies, the municipalities of Banda and Chitrakoot have prepared artificial ponds/burrows at the banks of the river Ken for the immersion of idols at the culmination of Durga Puja.
Not just this, there are restrictions on the number of idols and the volume level of speakers that are played at the numerous pandals at the Ramlila maidans, in line with the Allahabad High Court orders.
As Shyam Gupta, an organizer at the Ramlila Maidan in Karwi, Chitrakoot, shared, “In the name of competition people try to blare louder music with more number of speakers than those at their neighboring pandal.”
Priyanka, a visitor at the pandals says that she enjoyed the Durga Puja proceedings much better this year because there are fewer loudspeakers and DJ systems blaring.
However, Ashish Sagar, a local activist in Banda, however says that the ponds that are created are not big enough to contain the number of idols that are taken out for immersion and it may not address the scale of the problem.
As the rainy season will draw to a close soon, and water shortages will again become a part of everyday reality in the hinterland soon, these small measures in protecting the health of the Ken river, one of the lifelines of Bundelkhand will make way for bigger and more lasting initiatives in future.