The highly polluted and choking Yamuna seems set for another toxic invasion when over 300 clay idols of the goddess Durga and her pantheon are immersed in its murky waters Sunday. Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) authorities said it is a "one off incident" and they have not enforced any guidelines on Puja organisers to follow while immersing idols.
"No, we have not issued any guidelines to the Puja committees. We cannot interfere in the religious sentiment of the people," R.C.Trivedi, additional director of CPCB, told IANS.
"Yamuna in Delhi is already polluted and immersion of these idol will not make much difference. When 36 million litres of sewage enter the river daily, what difference will it make if few tonnes of idols are immersed?" he asked.
He said the board has a printed guideline book on idol immersion and it was up to the organisers to follow it. "Enforcing rules in such scenarios is very difficult. People should be conscious not to throw flowers and decoration items in water.
"Yamuna is already polluted in Delhi and devotees should think that immersing Mother Durga in such waters will not bring blessings on them," Trivedi added.
However, he agreed that toxic paints used to paint the idols affect aquatic life. Environmental experts, however, said that the board has guidelines on paper and never bothers to implement them on ground. "At least 300 idols and over 30 tonnes of toxic paint will go to Yamuna but CPCB is doing nothing. This is just another example of our environmental apathy," said Gopal Krishna, convener of green body Toxic Watch.
Krishna said seven different categories of wastes like paints, plaster of paris, flowers, bamboos and other beautification materials and polythene and plastics will go into the already polluted water. "After so much pollution, we doubt if there are still fish in Yamuna here. If there are fish and other aquatic life like turtles they will be affected through this toxic invasion," Krishna said.
He said the CPCB needs to test the water quality before the immersion, during immersion and after immersion to know the effect of pollution and thus can devise a guideline for upcoming occasions.
Confirming the position of CPCB, Sanjay Pal, joint secretary of a Puja committee in C.R. Park (B Block), said: "No we have not received any guidelines from the board."
However, S.K. Roy, a member of the same puja committee, said that they would not throw flowers and other plastic materials into the river. "We have not used plaster of paris this year and will not throw the beautification material and flower into the Yamuna. We will take out all these and keep aside so that civic bodies can clean it easily," Roy added.