Goa faced an epidemic of Plaster of Paris (PoP) Ganesh idols during the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations. These PoP idols were cheap, glossy and light weight and instantly became a rage in the Goan markets. Ganesh Chaturthi being a major festival celebrated in Goa. The festival culminates in a ritual wherein the deity idols are immersed in water bodies. This meant that tonnes of PoP would end up in the water bodies. In addition, the chemical colours used to paint the idols were synthetic and toxic. Having understood the magnitude of the problem, certain steps have been undertaken by the state government which have lead to a curb in the use of PoP idols in Goa.
Ban on PoP idols & subsidy on clay idols
In 2008, a complete ban was imposed on the use of PoP idols. This ban was complimented by issuing a subsidy of Rs. 100 to craftsmen making up to 250 clay idols (totals benefits of RS 25,000 per season). The subsidy has received a positive response from these craftsmen and almost 60, 000 subsidies were availed last season.
These efforts enabled a reduction in the usage of PoP idols but did not completely eliminate the use of it in Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations. Sources for obtaining the idol seem to originate in the neighbouring states. Speaking on the issue in the Goa state assembly, Environment and Forest Minister Arlekar, has assured of taking adequate preventive measures.
“It is detrimental to environment. The government will be alert. We have banned all PoP Ganesh idols. We will be posting personnel on checkpoints along the Goa-Maharashtra border to stop these idols from coming in,” he said.
There have been instances of traditional clay idol makers of using Chemical colours to paint the idols. This was mainly done to give the clay idols a glossy finish in order to compete with attractive PoP idols. Hazardous elements such as gypsum, sulphur, phosphorus, magnesium and lead paints end up in water bodies due to PoP idols. This year the Ganesh Chaturthi celebration will begin from September 5.
Celebrations generally lasts for one and a half days, 3 days, 5 days and 21 days, before the Ganesh idol is immersed in a water body. This year it will be more environment friendly.