Ahmedabad, May 20: The Gujarat government has decided to carry out a scientific study on the environment impact of immersion of idols made out of Plaster of Paris (PoP) on the basis of which revised and comprehensive directions will be issued for artisans in the state.
“As directed by the National Green Tribunal, the state government is soon setting up an expert panel to carry out a scientific study on the impact of immersion of PoP idols during festivals in the state and whether idols made out of PoP are pollutants or not,” a top officer in Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) said.
The state government's decision came after the principal bench of the National Green Tribunal (GNT) quashed and set aside Gujarat government's directions issued on January 23, 2012 imposing a ban on the use of PoP for making idols of Ganesh and other gods and goddesses.
A group of 14 idol makers, mostly from Surat, Navsari, Valsad and Bilimora had challenged the resolution passed by Principal Secretary Forest and Environment Department under Section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
Initially, they had moved the Gujarat High Court seeking redressal but a division bench of the Chief Justice has transferred the matter to NGT, in view of the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Bhopal Gas Peedith Mahila Udyog Sangathan & others in August 2012.
In its resolution, the Gujarat Government directed that the idols should be made from natural materials as described in holy scripts.
“Idols should be made of traditional clay and not from use of baked clay, Plaster of Paris. PoP idols don't dissolve completely in water and cause cloggs and other problems in the river or other reservoirs where people immerse it during the festivals. To avoid environment degradation, the government has proposed clay idols,” said GPCB Chairman K U Mistry.
All idol makers, who moved the NGT have claimed in their application that they are making/sculpting idols of all gods and goddesses, including Lord Ganesh, since many years in Gujarat and they are manufactured by using PoP.
“Srishti Eco-Research Institute (SERI) in Pune has conducted scientific study on use of PoP with reference to immersion of idols made from PoP. The scientific report has revealed that although PoP is not easily soluble in water, yet it has no poisonous effect and does not cause any serious or adverse effect on the environment,” they claimed.
They had also contended that use of clay for making the idols is impracticable and added “not only are the clay idols unaffordable to the common man, but extraction of clay from river bed or places of earth would cause relatively more harm to the environment than the present practice of PoP made idols.”
The order, passed recently by the four-member Principal Bench headed by Judicial member V R Kingaonkar, directed all the state pollution control boards to carry out similar scientific study through an expert panel.
The bench has also ordered that the study be completed within three months and necessary directions be issued “since the Ganesh festival and other festivals are in the offing.”
Setting aside the state government's decision bench has observed that, “the Forest and Environment Department of State (Gujarat) Government cannot issue such directions under Section 5 Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. The Forest and Environment department of Gujarat had no power to place embargo on use of PoP for making of idols under the Environment Act.”
The bench has also made some strong observations on the process of immersion and its aftermath in which mutilated PoP idols resurge on surface of the water.
“We do not see any reason why idols of Gods/ Goddesses should not have sanctity and due respect even after the immersion. We mean to say, the aftermath of the immersion should not result into colossal disrespect to the idols of Gods and Goddesses on account of adoption of improper immersion process,” it said.
“Needless to say, therefore, that it would be in the interest of the public to avoid the hurting of religious sentiments by regulating immersion process and use of the PoP for making/manufacturing of idols of Gods/Goddesses,” it said while directing all state governments to ensure the proper procedure for the immersion of idols.