Several environmentalists were relieved on Tuesday when the Bombay High Court recorded a declaration from the CEO of Aarey colony that no clearance was granted to the BMC for idol immersion in Aarey lakes.
A division bench of Chief Justice Devendra Kumar Upadhyay and Justice Arif Doctor observed,
“We also direct that adequate arrangements be made by the various urban local bodies throughout the city of Mumbai and in the suburbs surrounding it for safer immersion of the idols in accordance with the guidelines issued by the Central Pollution Control Board in its Notification dated May 12, 2020.”
The CEO of Aarey Colony has reported to the Bombay High Court (HC) that the submersion of Ganesh idols in bodies of water inside the colony will not be permitted. Vanashakti, an environmental NGO, had submitted a PIL in the High Court, seeking that the BMC stop immersing Ganesh idols in the following water bodies in Aarey: Chhota Kashmir Lake, Ganesh Mandir Lake, and Kamal Lake.
Meanwhile, the state government, the BMC, and other appropriate agencies were asked by the HC to guarantee the protection of the environment during the submerged immersion of Ganesh idols throughout the city. The HC ordered that the measures be made in accordance with the norms issued by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in 2020 as well as the Union Environment Ministry’s orders. The court also directed those in charge to give a complete reply to Vanashakti’s PIL, including the activities taken to follow the centre’s orders.
Environmentalist Debi Goenka stated that it would be fantastic if the authorities ensured that the injunction was followed. Even simple measures like putting up CCTV cameras on the approach roads and around the ponds would make a huge difference,” he added, adding that we should work towards making the entire process eco-friendly to reduce the environmental damage. “No religion teaches us to degrade nature in the name of religion,” said green campaigner Zoru Bhathena. We are delighted that the HC recognises the importance of preserving our limited remaining natural areas.”
“A state counsel, who served as Aarey Colony’s chief executive officer, reported to the division bench of chief justice DK Upadhyay as well as justice Arif Doctor that “no permission shall be granted for immersion of idols in the lakes of Aarey Colony, keeping in mind the provisions contained in the Central Government’s notification dated December 15, 2016 and the guidelines issued by the Central Pollution Control Board on May 12, 2020.”
This is a setback for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and MLA Ravindra Waikar, who had written to the CEO of the Aarey Milk Colony earlier this year asking for an exemption from the prohibition”, according to a report.
Anand Pendharkar, an environmentalist, believes that the move should be extended to all natural wetlands, including the ocean, streams, and rivers. “Idol immersion in plaster of Paris should be prohibited.” Large idols should not be immersed but rather saved for future use. Finally, hazardous or toxic colours should be prohibited,” he added.
“The NGO Vanashakti, which filed the original petition for the ban on Ganpati immersions in the three lakes in Aarey—the Chhota Kashmir lake, the Ganesh Mandir lake, and the Kamal lake—brought this to the HC’s attention and sought appropriate directions to prevent the civic body from allowing immersion in the lakes”, a report said.
“The court also indicated that it would address the broader issue of Ganpati immersions in natural water bodies,” Vanashakti’s Stalin D remarked. It has ordered the BMC, the state government, the Maharashtra State Pollution Control Board (MPCB), the Aarey Colony’s chief executive officer, and the member secretary of the monitoring committee for ESZ zones to provide details on the efforts taken to implement the CPCB’s directives dated May 12, 2020. The response is due in four weeks, and the next hearing is scheduled for November 1.
In response, the BMC is planning alternative Ganpati immersion arrangements. “There will be three floating talaos in Aarey for all domestic idols of Shiva,” said Rajesh Akre, assistant commissioner of the P South Ward.
“There will be three floating talaos in Aarey for all domestic idols of height below 4 feet: one at the west gate, another at the picnic spot, and one will be mobile on the road in Dinkar Rao Desai Marg,” said Rajesh Akre, assistant commissioner of the P South Ward. The ward also has 14 manmade ponds.”
Former Upnagar Ganeshotsav Samanvay Samiti corporator Ashok Patel stated, “We’re still taking legal advice on our next step, but alternate arrangements are also being made. The BMC is pushing people to choose man-made ponds for immersions instead of the sea somewhere else in the city, particularly in the C ward.
He had met with residents and stated that the response was mostly positive.
According to Patel, “There are 250 artificial ponds in Mumbai for Ganpati immersions. In Mumbai, there are approximately 12,000 sarvajanik (public) Ganpati idols and 5,000 domestic idols in every area of the city. Smaller Ganpatis should be immersed in artificial ponds to decrease traffic congestion and the burden on the police. “Their visarjan will also be over quickly in this manner,” he predicted.
A Deputy Municipal Commissioner filed an affidavit stating that a NOC from the Aarey CEO was requested and that they would not proceed without his consent. They stated that the criteria for idol immersion would be phased in over three years, namely 2022, 2023, and 2024.
According to the BMC, circulars and booklets were disseminated to notify the general public about the recommendations. According to the BMC affidavit, it obtained eco-friendly white clay to supply to idol manufacturers. The BMC affidavit stated, “BMC has made a provision for 2400 metric tonnes of clay and has actually supplied over 450 metric tonnes to various idol makers. It went on to say that public committees had been urged to utilise eco-friendly materials for idol manufacturing”.