Durga Puja has just ended and the idol immersion episode has just gotten over. Goddess Durga must have not yet reached ‘Kailash’ but a serious question has already arisen. As more and more people are becoming conscious about the environment, the question comes up as to whose duty is it to remove the post-immersion pollutants from the water of the Ganges. The Kolkata High Court has ordered that the Kolkata Municipal Corporation should take up the task of removing the inner wooden and bamboo structures of the idols and the foil and ‘zari’ accessories that tend to add up to water pollution after the idol melts. These pollutants accumulate near the ghats.
Mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharjee has said that the Municipal Corporation would not take up the entire responsibility. They would remove the pollutants from the ghats but those which have been swept away to the mid of the river would be removed by the Calcutta Port Trust. But the Calcutta Port Trust is reluctant to take up the responsibility. Bhattacharjee tried commenting that when the original immersion of the idol according to the ‘Shastra’ is been done inside the pandal itself, what is the use of again going for immersion in the Ganga? But his comment has been ruled out, as the Bengali custom and the religious sentiments are intricately woven with the ritual of immersion. Another question arises as to where would these thousands of idols be preserved if not immersed?
Environmentalists have suggested an alternative to control water pollution. A portion of the water near the ghats could be barricaded for the immersion and immediately the inner structures would be lifted up by crane. These would then be taken to the studios of the idol-makers for reuse.
The issue remains a sensitive one. It is a tryst between sentiments and practicality. The rising environmental problems cannot be ignored; however, the sanctity with which each Bengali perceives their deity should also not be overlooked.
What would be the procedure for immersion may remain an administrative decision. However, it is quite difficult to work out such a solution as it involves public sentiment. The battle remains strong. A decision between saving Mother Nature and stand strong in one’s traditional beliefs can never be easy. We look forward to seeing who finally wins — the puritan Hindus or the environmentalists.