Before the preparations for Ganesh Chaturthi started in full swing, a group of Rotaractors from RAC Vizag Metro, RI District 3020, sat down with a potter in Dwarka Nagar, Visakhapatnam, and helped him to make eco-friendly Ganesh idols in clay with seeds embedded in them. “This was an effort to promote love for plants among devotees as the seeds will sprout into plants after it is immersed in water. In fact, it works two ways, as people will immerse the idols at their homes instead of taking them to the waterbodies,” says Club President Afreen Bano.
Most Ganesh idols are made from Plaster of Paris, and are non-biodegradable. They continue to float on water and will adversely impact the waterbody’s ecosystem. The paint on the idols which have high content of lead and mercury destroy the flora and fauna in the water. In order to protect the environment and fight these challenges during the festival, the Rotaractors who are passionate about “a clean and green India,” worked with local potters to create biodegradable idols. “These Ganesh idols were a big hit and people were happy that they could celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi without affecting the environment,” she says.
While the idea to make environment-friendly Ganesh idols came to the Rotaractors back in 2014, they gave the statues a green spin last year when the club was inspired by a local campaign — a seed flag or a flag made of seed paper. The handmade, biodegradable flag was made from a type of paper that included different plant seeds. The seeds sprout when the paper is planted in the soil. “We were inspired and decided to replicate the idea in the Ganesh idols,” says Afreen.
It is a win-win situation because “washed away or kept at home, these statues will turn into plants.” Many other Rotaract clubs in the district were also inspired by the concept, says DRR Arvind Prasad, adding, “we celebrate a festival for a good cause, but if the festival is hurting the environment, it really isn’t a festival.”
RAC Vizag Metro gave out almost 500 idols within Vishakhapatnam and is planning to reach a bigger number next year with the cooperation of other clubs in the district.