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Sunday 5 July 2020

CPCB: No plaster of paris for Ganesha idols

'Such materials are not biodegradable, are toxic when immersed in water bodies; there was a need to develop guidelines for idol-making'

Adding to the woes of city-based Ganesha idol makers but conserving the nature at the same time, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on Tuesday ordered a ban on the use of plaster of paris to avoid polluting water bodies during immersions. The use of thermocol and plastic has been banned as well.

The CPCB “revised guidelines for idol immersion” to encourage eco-friendly and bio-degradable idol immersion and prevent the pollution in recipient water bodies, it said. “Traditionally, clay is used to make Ganesh idols. Over the years, however, plaster of paris (PoP), which is lighter and cheaper, has become the favoured material to mould idols. POP contains chemicals such as gypsum, sulphur, phosphorus, and magnesium.

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“The dyes used to colour these idols may also contain mercury, cadmium, arsenic, lead, and carbon. Plastic and thermocol accessories are used to decorate these idols. Such materials are not biodegradable, hence are toxic when immersed in water bodies. Hence, need was felt to develop guidelines for idol immersion,” the report by CPCB says.

Meanwhile, this new order has made the members of the artisan community upset. The nation-wide lockdown, imposed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, has already hit them hard.

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Akhilesh More is a third generation idol maker. His family has been involved in this business for more than six decades now. As is the case every year, he has finished making the skeletons of hundreds of idols, which are presently being baked under the summer sun at his Parel workshop. Generally, the baking process needs to be completed before the arrival of monsoon.

In the guidelines for craftsman, it said that idols made up of traditional virtuous like clay and mud as well as free from plaster of paris, plastic and thermocol should be encouraged. Use of single-use plastic and thermocol materials shall not be permitted strictly.

“This new rule makes no sense. By the end of summer, we are done preparing the skeletons of the idols. Most of the idol makers have already invested a lot of money in the raw materials and we are not sure whether we will be able to sell any item this year,” More said.

“In our workshop, we have finished baking as many as 300 idols, which are then sold in the markets. However, seeing the number of cases rising, we are afraid whether a single piece of idol will be sold this year,” he added.

In a related development on 14 May, the Yogi Adityanath government of Uttar Pradesh had said that idols bought during Diwali will no longer be imported from China but made by the artisans of his state, whom he is encouraging with easy loans and industry regulations.

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