Devotees ignore TNPCB guidelines, immerse plaster of paris idols across the city. Researchers say plaster of paris, chemical paints and decorations are harmful pollutants that will have a negative impact on marine life.
Ahead of Ganesh Chathurthi TNPCB had clarified that the idols made of clay and eco-friendly materials alone will be allowed to be immersed in the sea and other water bodies that were earmarked for such immersion. The board had also made it clear that idols meant to be immersed in the bay should not have a coat of chemical paints and that the painting material used should be either water soluble or natural dyes, but on Sunday, few paid heed to it.
“The bigger idols weigh approximately 20 to 25 kg. Hence, at least 1,000 tonnes of plaster of paris, which is not soluble in water, was dumped in the sea. Those immersing idols made of eco-friendly substances were rare,” said Dr Joe K Kizhakudan, marine expert.
“The amount of paint and colour used also end up polluting the sea and greatly affecting marine life. Apart from the idols even the clothes wrapped around the idol are pollutants. The chemicals are likely to spread out to a larger area depending on the tidal parameter,” he added.
Many, however, claim that TNPCB can only restrict the kind of materials used for making the idols, but it cannot stop people from immersing them. They also claim that only a day of dumping such materials into the sea will not impact the sea negatively.
Marine biotechnology researcher Dr Maruthupandi said, “Idol immersion does not create a huge impact to the sea as it will get dissolved within a few days. If the idols are dumped in an inland water body such as a pond or a lake, then the water body will have a chemical impact. As the Bay of Bengal is not a restricted water body, all the chemicals will get diluted easily and not be toxic to the environment.”
“But if people continue to use plaster of paris and other chemicals which pollute the sea, that will pose as a threat to the environment. To avoid such a situation, it’ll be better to stop using such chemicals and stick to only eco-friendly idols,” he added.
Dr Maruthupandi said that instead of worrying about idol immersion which is carried out on only one day a year, authorities should focus on other major pollutants.
Last May, when the researcher visited Karaikal, he collected a sample from the sea and tested it to find that it contained 6 mg of mercury and other toxic chemicals. “Usually, if the amount of industrial waste found in 100 mg sea water reaches 0.5mg, then it is considered toxic. And here, at Karaikal, people who consume seafood are prone to getting cancer,” Dr Maruthupandi said.
Recently, beach goers in the city witnessed bioluminescence which, according to researchers, indicates poor sea health.
Speaking to DT Next, G Gopalakrishnan, Joint chief environmental engineer, TNPCB ,said, “District collectors collected a sample of sea water before and after the idols immersion. It is being tested. If we find the sea is polluted, then we will take steps.”