MUMBAI: As the Ganesh festival arrives September 19-28, the BMC has renewed its efforts to implement the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) ban on plaster of paris (PoP) idols. The state government had permitted relaxation twice -- once owing to the Covid lockdown, and secondly, after mandals sought more time to switch to eco-friendly alternatives.
Naresh Dahibawkar, president of the Brihanmumbai Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Samanvay Samiti (BSGSS), the nodal federation of sarvajanik Ganesh mandals, said, "We met with CM Eknath Shinde and sought viable alternatives to PoP. We are not against environment protection. In fact we have consistently appealed to mandals to adopt eco-friendly practices, and they have agreed. But clay moortis are expensive, time consuming to craft and shadu idol makers are few. So the CM has appointed a committee of experts to submit a report."
Dahibawkar said that meanwhile this year, the 12,000 sarvajanik mandals have been allowed to install tall PoP idols but households must adhere to clay moortis less than 4 ft in height.
Earlier this month, the BMC appealed to citizens that in the interest of the environment, 'shadu' clay Ganesh idols should be installed. "The sale or use of PoP idols is banned as per CPCB rules. Also their immersion causes water pollution. So the BMC has requested that PoP idols not be sold or bought during Ganeshotsav," said a civic official.
Meanwhile, city BJP president MLA Ashish Shelar opposed what he described as the BMC's "raids" on moortikars. He urged the civic body to "not hamper the livelihoods of sculptors and not create obstacles in the celebration of a Hindu festival". "The CM had convened a meeting in this regard. The sculptors had also filed a petition in the court. BMC must not initiate action when the decision is pending," he said in the assembly.
Deputy municipal commissioner Ramakant Biradar, who is Ganeshotsav coordinator, did not respond to requests for comment. A ward level officer said that no action has been initiated against PoP idol makers but the civic body is promoting the idea of giving stalls along roads to shadu sculptors.
However, another ward level officer said that while issuing permissions to moortikars they have imposed a clause that only clay idols should be sold. "We are ready to even give them the mud required for making these idols so that the festival is celebrated in an environmentally friendly manner," said the officer.