Yamuna in distress after immersions

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Debris from hundreds of Plaster of Paris idols and plastic waste found in different ghats

Government agencies in the national capital have failed the dying Yamuna yet again this year, as the nine-day-long Durga Puja festivities, which came to a halt on Saturday, left the river in dire straits.

Despite a strict order by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in September, following a story by The Hindu on the state of the immersion ghats across the city almost over two weeks after Ganesh Chaturthi, no visible change can be seen.

On the banks of south Delhi’s Kalindi Kunj Ghat and north Delhi’s Nigam Bodh Ghat, half submerged idols of Durga, most of them made of Plaster of Paris (PoP), were seen on Sunday. The river water also saw a sea of plastic bags floating with glass bangles, flower petals and other decorations made of metal and plastic.

Hans Raj, 35, a lifeguard sieving the debris to the shore, said that most of the idols immersed on Saturday and Sunday were made of PoP.

“Idols made of PoP do not dissolve in water, unlike idols made from mud. We also find it difficult to pull them out because the broken idols pierce our hands and feet and often cause grievous injuries,” he said.

Ban unheeded

The green court had in 2015 placed a complete ban on the use of PoP and paints with high levels of lead for making idols, which are known to cause serious damage to the soil and water of the ecologically-sensitive area when immersed.

Guidelines were also issued by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in 2010 and by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), which have largely been unheeded.

Sanjay Upadhyay, a senior environment lawyer who raised the issue of the pollution caused by idol immersions in the Yamuna before the NGT in September, had made a special appeal before the court that a detailed action plan be filed by agencies — the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), the Delhi Jal Board (DJB), three municipal corporations of the city (east, south and north), and the Delhi government — on how they would tackle the high influx of devotees to the ghats and check pollution.

“Durga Puja witnessed more attendance and the numbers of idols that are immersed are also comparatively higher than during Ganesh Chaturthi. We had asked the honourable court to ask for what plan the authorities have for these immersions and what are they are doing to check that PoP idols do not reach and stay in the river water,” Mr. Upadhyay said.

Officials from the Delhi Police, which is responsible for ensuring the safety of devotees during the idol immersions, said that idols are immersed from over 200 Durga Puja pandals across the city. Idols worshipped at home are also brought for immersion.

There are four major ghats in Delhi: Kalindi Kunj, Geeta Ghat, Kudsia Ghat and Ram Ghat.

Officials from the south and north Delhi municipal corporations said that cleaning of the ghats commenced early on Sunday morning.

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