Idol immersion may have contaminated Delhi water

October 11th, 2011 - 6:32 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 11 (IANS) There is a strong possibility that Delhi’s potable water has got contaminated with toxic dyes after the immersion of idols on Durga Puja last week and earlier during the Ganesh festival.

“Many idols are immersed upstream in the Wazirabad area, from where Delhi gets its drinking water supply, and water treatment plants are not efficient enough to treat dyes and other chemicals,” Ravi Aggarwal of NGO Toxics Link told IANS.

According to environmentalists, the immersion guidelines issued by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in June 2010 are openly flouted by puja committees. To make matters worse, there is nobody to check it.

According to the CPCB, after immersions, they collect water samples to study the impact. “We will be collecting samples from the Yamuna and the results will be declared,” CPCB chairman S.P. Gautam said.

Aggarwal believes that all these chemicals — having arsenic, cadmium and lead — get mixed in potable water and can be harmful even in dilution. Besides, these chemicals reduce the dissolved oxygen level in the river, affecting aquatic life.

The Yamuna enters Delhi at Palla village bordering Haryana, about 15 km upstream of the Wazirabad barrage, which acts as a water reservoir for Delhi, and exits at the Okhla barrage, covering a total stretch of 40 km.

Toxics Link, along with Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan and many other NGOs, has been running a campaign for cleaning the Yamuna.

“I have been visiting banks of the Yamuna during the last one week to gauge the situation and it is totally filthy and littered with leftovers of festivities,” Aggarwal said.

“You can see a reddish-blue film over the Yamuna and the banks are strewn with polythene bags, ornaments, flowers and coconut husks, which could soon be washed into the river,” he added.

The CPCB guidelines say that idols should be made from natural materials — traditional clay for idol making rather than baked clay or plaster of Paris. Besides, non-toxic natural dyes and water soluble colours should be used.

Flowers and plastic or paper materials used to bedeck idols should be removed before immersion. Biodegradable materials should be separated for recycling or composting while non-biodegradable materials should be disposed of in sanitary landfills.

Manoj Mishra of the Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan feels that the problem lies with implementation of guidelines and awareness among the people.

“In 2008, we campaigned on the Hazrat Nizamuddin bridge and stopped people from throwing flowers, coconut and other materials directly into the river. Believe me, 90 percent were ready to hand over puja leftovers when convinced of safe disposal,” Mishra told IANS.

“Authorities should run a campaign before such festivities, apprising the people and artists involved in making idols about non-toxic dyes to be used for colouring and means to dispose them of in eco-friendly ways,” Mishra said.

“In some villages of Uttar Pradesh, people do not immerse idols but bury them and such practices should be encouraged,” Mishra said, referring to an unverified practice.

Environmentalists worry about the scale of pollution caused by immersion in other rivers including the Ganga.

“This is a common problem whether it is the Yamuna or the Ganga and these things are repeated year after year and several NGOs have been campaigning for eco-friendly immersion ways but to no use,” Hemant Dhyani from Ganga Ahvaan told IANS.

“We cannot ensure that all measures are taken until the people are aware themselves,” he adds.

(Richa Sharma can be contacted at richa.s@ians.in)

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