At Baje Kadamtala Ghat near Babughat, always in focus during this time of the year and closely monitored by environmentalists and activists, every rule in the book was implemented. The scenes across the river in Howrah were in stark contrast with no attempt to even clear plastic and other non-biodegradable materials.
Last week, the state government had reportedly sought exemption from National Mission for Clean Ganga directions over the blanket ban on immersion of idols in the Ganga and its tributaries. It also assured NMCG that all attempts would be made to minimise the damage to the river.
At Baje Kadamtala Ghat, where only 55 idols could be immersed on Wednesday due to the downpour, several government agencies put in a co-ordinated effort to protect the river by clearing all the paraphernalia of idols before immersions. Cranes immediately pulled the structures out of the water and dumped them at a separate enclosure from where payloaders shifted them to lorries to be taken to Dhapa.
“The structures are being pulled out within minutes so that the colours do not dissolve in water. Clothes, crowns and other accessories of the idols are being cleared before immersion,” said a senior official of the KMC’s conservancy department.
At Ramkrishnapur Ghat in Howrah across the river, there were no visible attempts by any of the agencies to protect the Hooghly from harmful paint and non-bio-degradable materials. There were no Howrah Municipal Corporation officials or cranes and payloaders to clear the debris. The cops at the spot remained seated inside a make-shift camp. “We have told all Puja committees about the guidelines. The same has also been shared at the ghat so that people know what to do,” said a civic official.
Traditionally, the idols were made of mud and painted with natural colours. But now, most are made using plaster of Paris and coated with harmful paints containing heavy metals. Every year, the water quality in the Hooghly dips due to the high presence of lead and other harmful substances along with solid materials. Environmentalists and river experts have been actively campaigning to put a stop to it. “We have tried sensitising the Puja committees and government agencies about the ramifications. The condition has improved to a large extent but more needs to be done,” said an official of the West Bengal Pollution Control Board.
At Nimtala Ghat, the cranes and payloaders could not be operated due to the rain. “We have stopped the operations of cranes and payloaders as a precautionary measure. A few groups arrived with the idols and were not willing to wait. We could not stop them from immersing in the river,” said a police officer.
At Ratan Babu Ghat, which caters to several Puja committees along BT Road and adjoining locality for immersion, there is no space to manoeuvre cranes and payloaders. As a result, KMC workers are using ropes to stop idols from floating away in the river. “But how many can you stop like this? In the evening, there is a queue of people to immerse idols, but we do not have any infrastructure to handle it,” said a conservancy department official.
Very few idols could be immersed on Wednesday due to heavy the rain. Officials apprehend a surge of immersions on Thursday and Friday may harm Hooghly in the absence of infrastructure and awareness.
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