Several idols made of plaster of Paris immersed in waterbodies in Chennai despite directive

TNPCB, in its advisory, had said that only idols made of eco-friendly material will be allowed to be immersed in waterbodies

Updated - September 25, 2023 08:58 pm IST

Published - September 25, 2023 07:27 pm IST - CHENNAI

Some of the Vinayaka idols made of plaster of Paris washed ashore on the Pattinapakkam beach on Monday.

Some of the Vinayaka idols made of plaster of Paris washed ashore on the Pattinapakkam beach on Monday. | Photo Credit: AKHILA EASWARAN

Dozens of Vinayaka idols washed up ashore on Monday on the Pattinapakkam beach and other spots earmarked for immersion in the city. Despite a directive from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB), Vinayaka idols made of plaster of Paris (PoP) were immersed in the waterbodies.

Around 1,500 idols were said to have been immersed in Srinivasapuram, Neelankarai, Kasimedu, and Thiruvottiyur on Sunday. The TNPCB, in its guidelines released on September 4, said only idols made of natural and eco-friendly materials such as clay and mud would be allowed to be immersed in waterbodies. Further, based on a petition filed in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) by a Chennai resident against contamination of waterbodies, a committee was constituted on September 12, a week before the festival, to ensure implementation of the guidelines. 

The committee, headed by Supriya Sahu, Additional Chief Secretary to Departments of Environment, Climate Change and Forests, found that awareness on eco-friendly Vinayaka idols is “very poor” among not just idol makers but also among implementing authorities and local bodies. “The committee felt there was very little time to enforce guidelines,” said Ms. Sahu. 

B. Murugan, an artisan from Kosapet, said he had started work on making PoP idols for pandals nearly a month before the festival. When the authorities came for inspection, he had finished many of the idols, he adds. Another idol maker said PoP is the most convenient material available for making large idols. 

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) recommends temporary water structures be built for the specific purpose of idol immersion to avoid polluting waterbodies. This, however, may not be feasible, said Jayashree Vencatesan of Care Earth Trust.

Ms. Vencatesan said all festivals must be assessed for any issues detrimental to the environment and remedial measures must start at least six months in advance. As for Vinayaka idols, she said paper pulp, palm leaves and coconut straws are some of the alternatives. 

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