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Celebrate Ganeshotsav the Eco Friendly way | Pune

As Pune catches up with the enthusiasm and spirit of the upcoming Ganeshotsav some of the NGOs and activity centers are already doing their bit to promote the festival in the most innovative and eco friendly manner. Ecoexist is one such social enterprise founded by Manisha Gutman that has a line of activities planned this year that are fun eco-exist ganpatiand come with care for the environment too.

Eco Friendly Idols
For 2009 the social enterprise has got beautiful hand sculpted Ganesh idols by traditional artisans from Pen and Satara in Maharashtra and Sirsi from Karnataka. Made according to scriptural injunction these are available in 18 different designs. Made of clay and painted with natural materials such as turmeric, geroo and multani mitti, they give you an opportunity to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi in a completely eco-sensitive and non polluting manner. These can be immersed in a bucket of water at home as they dissolve easily and the water can be poured onto plants or in a garden. The idols are available in the price range of Rs. 350-1,500 at stores like Either Or, Bandhej (9422306673) and environment groups like Oikos Kothrud (020-65289576) apart from Ecoexist's location at Kalyani Nagar (9850084383).

That’s not all. To make the idols extra special all their idols are blessed by a special chant carried out as per Vedic tradition by Shri Vivek Shastri Godbole, the head of a Vedshala in Satara and a staunch lover of Nature. He conducted a Ganesh pooja in traditional Vedic style, to bless the eco-friendly idols.

Eco-sensitive accessories
Everyone loves to decorate Ganesh idols beautifully. However, the use of thermocol and plastic in pandals as well as for garlands and other decorations increases non biodegradable waste. Therefore the social enterprise has introduced some exquisite temples, garlands and shawls made especially for Ganesh Chaturthi. These cloth items have been made using leftover fabrics and provide an eco-sensitive livelihood to women living in Pune's slums. Along with the NGO Swadhaar, Ecoexist conducted training on how to make these accessories. This initiative was led by their talented fabric expert and a part of Ecoexist’s board, Abida Khan. They are available in a kit which includes one temple with either one shawl or one garland and are made by order.

Immersion and Waste Management
In Bangalore, a study done by the Central Pollution Control Board to assess the impact of immersion of Ganesh idols on the lakes revealed that the acid content in the waters increased. Since the main issue around water pollution has to do with the idol immersion ritual, several people are now suggesting a slight variation of this ritual to avoid water pollution. These include:

1. Immersing the idol in a water tank constructed by the government, instead of directly into natural water bodies.
2. Using only a natural clay idol and immersing it either in the tank or in a bucket of water at home.
3. Immersing a 'betel nut' which symbolizes the idol and reusing the same idol every year.
4. If one is using a Plaster of Paris idol, simply sprinkling a few drops of water on it as a symbolic immersion and donating the idol to be recycled for the following year.
5. Avoiding the use of non biodegradable material such as thermocol altogether.
6. Composting all bio degradable material.
7. Distributing food items such as coconuts and fruits among the poor.
8. Recycling flowers to make hand made paper or dried flower products.

Along with the idol, there are several accessories used during the worship which are collectively referred to as 'nirmalya'. These include flowers, fruits, coconuts, cloth, incense, camphor etc. Further, many people create elaborate temples out of thermocol to showcase their idols. Until some years ago, all these were also immersed along with the idols. In Pune, the municipal corporation has successfully convinced people not to immerse the 'Nirmalya' into the water. Instead, they have installed large bins shaped as traditional pots or 'kalash' to receive this Nirmalya. The union of women ragpickers whose work involves segregation of domestic garbage at various ghats along the main rivers of Pune during visarjan days will collect the nirmalya bags and make sure all the contents of the bags are correctly separated into biodegradable and non biodegradable substances. Food items such as fruits and coconuts will be taken home by the women or distributed to the poor. The bulk of the flowers collected will be composted by the Pune Muncipal Corporation for their public gardens. Also the flowers will be recycled to make natural holi colors by the women prisoners of the Yerawada Central Jail.

Clean drive by Ecoexist

After the immersion of the Ganpatis, Ecoexist along with the NGO Swach and other social workers will be cleaning the rivers and lakes. Join them in this initiative. Otherwise, One Life Activity Club in Pashan has a special workshop to make these eco friendly idols as well. So adopt some eco-friendly measures this festival and take better care of your environment.

By Trupti Shetty
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