Hyderabad: With the 10-day long Ganesh Chaturthi festival beginning Monday, authorities are trying to promote more eco-friendly celebrations, including popularising clay idols and minimising immersion in water bodies, including in the famous Hussain Sagar Lake.
Considered one of the city`s landmarks, the lake is struggling for revival in the face of rampant civic pollution. Authorities are therefore trying to promote small changes in the festival observances to save the water body.
Festivities surrounding the Ganesh festival have grown manifold over the years. According to R.P. Khajuria, member (environment) of the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HMDA), this specially pertains to the size of idols and the number of celebrations at various community levels, the two counts on which the authority is now appealing for moderation.
"We have appealed to the public to reduce the size of the Ganesha idol, and immerse these smaller idols at the household level, maybe in a bucket or tub of water, and then use this water for gardening," Khajuria said.
"Additionally, we have also requested people to hold collective celebrations at significant points of the city - instead of doing it at every community level - and then immerse the idols at an artificial pond," he added.
In a bid to encourage people, HMDA has promised to highlight stories of the "heroes" who practise local immersion methods.
To further encourage eco-friendly celebrations, Khajuria said HMDA has also launched a campaign for popularising clay idols.
"The Clay Ganesha campaign is in association with two NGOs, Save and Sukuki Exnora, which have taken up the responsibility of making clay idols. Anyone can register with us, and we will supply them with such idols for the festival," he said, adding that they have also collaborated with the College of Home Science in Khairathabad to provide natural colours for the idols.
Although the campaign was first launched in 2012 it had not picked up much pace. This year, however, 30,000 people, Khajuria says, have registered with HMDA for the clay idols, whose height is restricted to three feet.
He credited the Hussain Sagar Lake clubs at the school and college level, volunteers, and the campaign in the social media for the spurt in registration.
The authority`s efforts are however not restricted to one festival, Khajuria said.
"A huge quantity of puja material, along with plastics, is dropped into the Hussain Sagar Lake daily because of the belief that prayer material should be immersed in a water body. To address this issue, we have established 10 puja/plastic material collection counters around the lake where people can dispose of the material in specially designed water containers," he said.
"The material collected is then used to make compost and used in gardens around the lake," he said.
The first counter was started in June this year, and 447 people used it in the first month, he said.
Built in the 16th century during the reign of Ibrahim Qutub Shah, the nearly five square kilometre sized Hussain Sagar Lake was originally built to meet drinking and irrigation needs of the city. With a large monolithic statue of the Buddha in the centre, the lake attracts both locals and tourists, although many people now complain of its deteriorating state, due to pollution that raises a stink.
Religion being a sensitive issue, Khajuria admitted that HMDA can only appeal to people to adopt environmentally conscious habits.
"People are becoming conscious, and with that thought we have appealed for the immersions (of the Ganesha idol) to be diverted to other lakes and ponds to reduce pollution in the Hussain Sagar Lake," he said.
"In any case we are prepared for the lake clearing work after the immersions in the coming days," he said resignedly.