A day after several hundred idols were immersed in the Yamuna on the last day of Durga Puja overloading an already polluted river, the Delhi Government’s Environment Department started the process of cleaning up and decongesting it on Thursday. The work is expected to end by early next week.

Delhi Environment & Forest secretary Sanjiv Kumar said: “This year the department began the work of ensuring that the river was put under as little stress as possible because of the immersion and we had regular meetings with the registered Puja committees asking them to use only environment-friendly material which does not harm the river further. As a follow-up to the exercise we also interacted with various stakeholders early this week to review the measures put in place for idol immersion in the Yamuna during Durga Puja.”

“We are happy,” he added, “with the adherence levels by the public this time as most opted to conduct the immersions on the spots designated by the government. The department on its part also held regular meetings with various stakeholders before the event to ensure that measures were put in place for convenience of the public and safety of the river.”

A senior official of the State Environment Department said: “The Irrigation & Flood Control Department had made enclosures at the designated spots -- Ram Ghat, Kudesai Ghat, Geeta Ghat and Kalindi Kunj -- for immersion of idols and signage were put up to inform the public about the water level. There was also an arrangement for lighting and additional infrastructures. The municipal corporations were instructed to provide toilets for public use. The Corporations are now involved in the removal of immersion material, stocking them on the banks and then transferring them to landfill sites for proper disposal.”

Environmentalist Vinod Jain, however, said: “Idols (most of which weren’t made using environment-friendly material) and several kilos of ceremonial flowers go into the river on a single day polluting the already choked river. We are not happy with the arrangements that Delhi’s Environment Department put in place because there was virtually no publicity given about the designated immersions sites and people were spotted using any convenient spot for immersion. The Environment Department did work more to satisfy the court rather than save the river.”