Home State Jharkhand Moving ahead with river-friendly festivals

Moving ahead with river-friendly festivals

river-friendly festivals

A Jamshedpur based not for profit is helping puja committees and individuals realise the importance of rivers and adapting eco friendly ways to celebrate festivals.

Ranchi, Oct 25

Sumedha Chaudhury

Till 2013, members of the Durga Puja committees in Sonari, Jamshedpur avoided getting inside the Subarnarekha River to immerse Durga Puja idols. The river and the banks got filthy with garbage during this festive season that people avoided unhygienic conditions. Four years later in 2019, members of the Puja committee including senior citizens walk down to the river to bid fare well to their beloved deity for the Domuhani ghat in Sonari is clean without the Puja paraphernalia littered around.

The frenzy of Durga Puja festival in Jamshedpur, Jharkhand is considered to be the second after Kolkata with about 320 puja committees organising Durga Puja every year. With competition in mind, puja committees try to attract eyeballs with fancy pandals that use loads of decorative materials made of plastic and thermocole or even idols made out of non biodegradable products that eventually flow into the rivers- Subernarekha and Kharkai through 14 immersion ghats. As a result, the materials immersed choke aquatic life and degrade the water quality.

In 2014, Kalpavriksh Foundation, a non profit organisation based in Jamshedpur started raising awareness through competitions among the residential society puja committees about Amader Pujo-Clean India Green Festivals. The initiative started for the first time in the state aimed at advocacy and awareness for committees to celebrate and organise the puja responsibly keeping the environment in mind, reducing waste generation in the four day festivity and separation of waste – puja paraphernalia shoved in polythene bags and avoiding the waste reach the river bed.

“After industrial waste and domestic waste, immersion during festivals contributes to the degraded water quality of the rivers. With toxic colours, polythene bags and decorative materials, the rivers choke for a very long time unless the civic bodies clean them. We realised that over the years, the increase in the volume of puja has ultimately impacted water bodies negatively,” said Tarak Nath Das, director of Kalpavriksh Foundation.

According to reports by the Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board the biological oxygen demand (BOD), chemical oxygen demand (COD) and total suspended solids increases manifolds after the immersion. The availability of heavy metals like zinc and chromium in the water also increases thereby affecting the quality of water.

The Clean India Green Festivals campaign thus started working on two verticals- awareness and action to help and reduce river pollution during festivals especially Durga Puja. While awareness includes interaction with idol makers and potters to use quality colours and less decoration on the idol; awareness sessions among puja committees and motivation through the Amader Pujo award ceremony and social media campaigns. The action part started from 2016 where Kalpavriksh Foundation with the support of the Jamshedpur Durga Puja Kendriya Samity, an apex body of all 320 pujas in Jamshedpur; East Singhbhum district administration and Jusco, a subsidiary of Tata Steel adopted the Domuhani immersion ghat for the first time to separate non biodegradable products to flow into the river.

Puja committees who came for immersion were asked to keep their paraphernalia in separate containers provided by Jusco and were also requested to take off all thermocole and plastic decorative materials from the idols.

“It was a challenge. For devotees who have had believed in age old tradition adhering to a new request was difficult. For us, it was a daunting task because it was against the common practice that people were used to. We did face some resistance but there were others who understood,” said Tarun Kumar, another volunteer of Kalpavriksh Foundation.

The team of Kalpavriksh Foundation since 2016 have used mythology to make people understand the importance of environment and rivers in the Indian culture. Stories like Bhagirath and Ganga and how rivers are considered to be mothers in our ancient scriptures helped the team to make people understand the problem and how to avoid it.

Puja committees who have been a part of the campaign and have also participated in the award ceremony have appreciated the effort.

“Earlier, we somehow immersed the idol as the water was filled with garbage but the campaign of Clean India Green Festivals has done wonders. The river is not only clean but there are separate containers to keep the waste. This has helped the river and the river bed to be clean. As a model ghat, there are seating arrangements and it has also found a lot of support and appreciation from senior citizens, “said Subhash Bose, president, Vijaya’s Shatabdee Resident Welfare Committee.

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