An interesting point is that this move is being supported by none other than priests, who are now chanting the "go-green" mantra. It looks strange but it's true. The priests with the help of their association are convincing the organisers of the community pujas to stop the use plastics and use solar energy for decoration, illumination and also for cooking.
"Plastics may be a matter of convenience but they should have no place in a puja offering, whether it be plastic garlands, plates or cups more so since they pollute," Somnath Shastri, treasurer of the Bangiya Purohit Sabha (a body of priests in Bengal), was quoted by The Hindu, a saying.
For long, the association has been pressing for the use of only traditional items such as containers in bell-metal, copper, silver, wood and plantain leaves, shunning the use of plastic, steel and aluminium utensils, he added.
The Kolkata Municipal Corporation's decision to ban the use of thin plastic bags seems to have strengthened the priests' position. Many organisers are trying to adopt environment-friendly practices. For example, incandescent lamps are being used to light pandals and streets.
"We are all aware of global warming. We felt that by using solar cooker to cook the prasad, and through the use of energy-efficient lamps and solar lanterns, we will send a message to those who attend the puja. We will also save on our electricity bill which, for some organisers, runs into half a lakh of rupees for the puja-week," said Rajat Sengupta of 66 Palli Sarbojanin Puja.
The West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Agency (WBREDA), the State's apex agency for renewable energy promotion, announced that the awards will be presented to then organisers for use of energy-efficient lamps and renewable energy.
On an average West Bengal receives 1600 kWh/m2 of solar energy per year. Solar energy is being utilized in West Bengal, mainly for village electrification programme. However, there are some applications in respect of solar thermal energy programme also.
The State of West Bengal has made significant progress in respect of village electrification through solar PV route. There are about 2,000 villages in West Bengal where conventional electric line cannot be extended due to prohibitive cost. 400 villages out of these 2000 villages have already been electrified by solar PV route.
WBREDA in association with MNES, Government of India is formulating a major scheme to set up about 200 nos. of SPV power plants of capacity 25 kW to 100 kW for electrification of entire Sundarban Islands, which has unique eco-system in the whole world.
It has also installed a large number of solar street lights in different remote areas of West Bengal, particularly in Jetties and forest areas. The total number of solar PV street lights working in the state has exceeded 2,000.
Recently, WBREDA has installed some solar street lights in the city of Kolkata. In the area of solar thermal, WBREDA has so far installed more than five lacs liters/day solar water heating systems and sold more than 10,000 solar cookers in the State.
WBREDA has a plan to install 50,000 solar home lighting systems in the State during the next five years.