The city was celebrating the arrival of Lord Ganesha with all glory and pomp. Several Ganesha pandals were set up. Every pandal once or more during the 10-day stay of Lord Ganesha distributes Prasadam (food) to the devotees. One such pandal in RTC complex did the same. Yesterday, they distributed food and water packets to devotees. Often when such events or occasion happens, the plates, plastic bags etc are just thrown here and there in spite of a dustbin being there. The same thing happened at the RTC complex. The water packets and plates were scattered all over the road. Have we forgotten the old saying- Cleanliness is next to Godliness!? Well, some have not. One good Samaritan called up the GVMC (Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation) and they responded promptly. Within one and a half hours, the entire area was cleaned up! Kudos to GVMC!
Festivals, weddings… the social calendar of many gets colourfully marked from July to December, as the upcoming months are full of festive cheer and marriage merrymaking. Shopping and planning for lavish celebrations feature prominently on the agenda. And directly proportional to the grandeur of celebrations, the mess in the aftermath is equally devastating. Revelry and communal meals translate to heaps of trash in the form of plastic or splates, glasses, spoons and cups; the grand colourful and majestic Ganesh and Durga idols leave in their wake heaps of Plaster of Paris, decorative paraphernalia and harmful chemicals (paints) in the waters. In fact, ringing in the New Year adds to the plastic heaps as almost every club and apartment complex organises a party. And added to all the garbage on the streets and drains, we have an unhealthy dose of noise too. Every celebration is accompanied by the cacophony of ‘music’ blaring from loudspeakers, music that ranges from peppy dance numbers to the devotional songs, that play on our religious sentiments, making you wonder that if God was there, wouldn’t he have shown mercy and spared us the torture?
In the aftermath of the Hudhud cyclone, the first festival, Diwali was unique – it was silent. There was no noise pollution – there were just lights, lamps and fire torches. It was for the first time in the recent history of Vizag or maybe the country itself, Diwali was truly a festival of lights. And the next year, things were back to normal – the noise, the strewn bits of paper as bombs were burst, scared pets, aggravated aged people and screaming infants. In hindsight, Vizagites are capable of change – the city celebrated the noisiest festival in festive silence. Many Ganesh pandals have voluntarily adopted eco-friendly idols, in fact many households too have shifted their preferences to plain mud idols rather than colourful Plaster of Paris ones. We are capable of adapting a healthier more eco-friendly manner of celebrating festivals, so why don’t we? As Sohan Hatangadi rightly commented, “If God is in our hearts we don’t have to make a public spectacle to prove it.” Vizagites speak out…
BRACE FOR THE FESTIVE SEASON
The festival season is here. It is the time when plastic pollution, rubbish on roads and sound pollution peaks in Vizag. Vizag’s streets, drains and beaches get clogged with rubbish which GVMC struggles to clean up. We, the tax payers are indirectly paying for this extravaganza of rubbish and sound! If we start early and have clarity in a set of rules we can have a safe non-polluting festival season. Threats are disposable Styrofoam/plastic prasadam plates, plastic water sachets, cups and dishes; the proliferation of POP idols that are immersed in the sea and the increasing number of processions with loud speakers. If some policies are taken in advance we can mitigate the problem and set a benchmark for handling festivals.
10 Point solution:
- To license and curtail number of pandals by charging a hefty (cleaning up) fee.
- Sanitary Inspectors can fan out and have a tough talk with all puja organisers on avoiding plastics and using “adda aku” (leaf) dishes only. We can get big supply of adda aku from the agency areas with GCC’s help.
- To ban use of large POP idols and lead based synthetic paints.
- To stagger and phase immersions timing.
- To restrict use of amplified sound systems during the pandal period and when going for immersions.
- We could start early by making a few press statements. In 2014 Diwali, no one burst crackers respecting Hudhud sentiments.
- Resident Welfare Associations can play a part in their neighbourhoods to dissuade too many pandals.
- The Commissioner of Police should also issue a few statements about pandals not causing traffic bottle necks.
- The media can help greatly in this initiative.
- We as individuals can also take a stand against the rubbish and sound.
Let our voices be heard. Change will come slowly but at least we would have made a start. If God is in our hearts we don’t have to make a public spectacle to prove it.
Festivals are a time for celebration, but that should not increase pollution in any way. For religious festivals too I don’t feel that God is pleased with loud music, large pandals and littering the place. What will perhaps be nicer is the community members getting together for chanting instead. I feel that people need to be educated about the increase on pollution during festivals and awareness on these issues needs to be created, starting with young children.
We have been celebrating festivals through ages, but over the years the ways how people participate in these festivals has changed. The apartment culture has come in, which wasn’t there before. While it’s true that the quantum of plastic usage increases during festive times, I feel that it isn’t a problem Vizag cannot tackle. The public-participation during Hudhud is proof of what we are capable of. In fact the commissioner is conducting awareness camps with NGOs on plastics, public toilets and other city issues. I feel that if the civic authorities step up their vigilance, people are made aware and the commissioner sets parameters for festive pandals we can overcome this menace easily.
Occasions call for food, friends and fun. In recent times, pollution and wastage of food have become an add-on for any occasion. Air pollution caused by fireworks, noise pollution caused by loud music in the streets is immense. Apart from this is the wastage of food during weddings, it is saddening to see that not a single plate of food is emptied. I feel festivals can be better spent at home with family and home cooked traditional food. And yes, not to forget about the upcoming Diwali. We need to make sure that it is an eco-friendly and a safe one.