Ganesh Chaturthi is a Hindu festival spanning over 11 days in honour of the elephant headed God, Ganesha. It is often referred to as Mumbai’s favourite festive spectacle – after all, it brings together an estimated 20 million citizens. On eleventh day, the festival culminates amidst much enthusiasm with the immersion of the Ganesh idols into city’s water bodies.
AN ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGE
Every year approximately 300,000 clay idols are immersed in the sea and other water bodies in Mumbai. These idols were once constructed of natural sources like mud and clay. Today these are constructed of POP (plaster of paris) which is non-biodegradable and insoluble in water. Vegetable dyes and natural colors have given way to toxic chemical-based paints, adversely affecting the marine life. Over the course of eleven days, holy Nirmalya which consist of flower garlands, fruits, coconuts, spices, honey and camphor are offered to Ganesha by devotees. These end up being immersed into the water bodies along with idols, or are strewn about on the beach or lake fronts. Sadly, this festival has today morphed into an extravaganza which leaves shocking amounts of waste and pollutants in its wake, once Ganesha has been bid farewell to.
GREENESHA: UNITED WAY MUMBAI'S RESPONSE
To tackle this issue, every year United Way Mumbai carries out Greenesha - GreenGanesha, a campaign led by students which aims to transform the way devotees celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi, in order to make it environment friendly. As part of this initiative, United Way Mumbai leverages the power of volunteers to:
- Organize post-immersion clean-up drives along Mumbai’s seashore to clear the litter
- Approach Ganesh mandals to build awareness on eco-friendly celebrations and encourage waste segragation prior to the immersion days
- Interact with beach-visitors and on-lookers to sensitize them on the need of celebrating Ganesh festival in environment friendly manner
As a result, 75,000+ kilos of waste is prevented from being immersed in water bodies.
This year marked the 6th edition of the campaign and was a huge success, engaging approximately 250 students and employee volunteers. Many thanks to Boehringer Ingelheim, Dow Chemical Company, CRISIL Limited, General Electric and Ness Technologies for joining hands at the brink of dawn for beach clean ups!