THE CROAK is a weekly environmental newsletter put out by the eCoexist team. It is the voice of the environment on its last legs, the final croak that can either be a plea for attention or a call of triumph as the frogs jump out of the well of ignorance and denial.

Celebrating Nature with Ganesha

In May 2020,  the Government of India, through the Central Pollution Control Board banned the use of Plaster of Paris and chemical paints , to make religious idols meant for immersion. This is a landmark decision that will ensure that our rivers, lakes and all water bodies stay free of any non biodegradable man made objects.

This edition of our newsletter, explains the Revised Guidelines for Immersion released by the CPCB. It highlights the main points to consider, along with visuals to help us communicate the guidelines better. 

The guidelines address several stakeholders specifically, the idol makers, the organising committees, the authorities and the consumers themselves. It looks at the problem of immersion and disposal from various angles and lays out a system through which we can minimise the pollution caused by these. 

(Note: This newsletter only highlights some points in the guidelines - please refer to the original document to understand in entirety. Visuals : Aditi Deo)

Read the full document of the Revised Guidelines here
Materials : Idols, Paints and Decorations

The most important aspect of the guidelines is in terms of the materials that they specify for use in the making of the idols, the paints used and the decorations. Since most of these materials are disposed after the festival, it is important that they are biodegradable and non polluting .

Idols made up of only natural, bio-degradable, eco-friendly raw materials without any toxic, inorganic raw materials [such as traditional virtuous clay and mud as well as free from Plaster of Paris (PoP), plastic and thermocol (polystyrene)] should be encouraged, allowed and promoted and Idols made up of Plaster of Paris (PoP) shall be banned.


Only dried flower components, straw etc. for making ornaments of idols and natural resins of trees may be used as a shining material for making idols attractive. 


Use of Single use plastic and thermocol materials shall not be permitted strictly and only eco-friendly materials as straw structure should be used in making idols or decoration of idols/pandals/tazias in order to prevent pollution in recipient water bodies. 


Use of toxic and non-biodegradable chemical dyes/oil paints for painting idols should be strictly prohibited. Enamel and synthetic dye based paints on idols should be discouraged instead eco-friendly water-based, bio-degradable and non-toxic natural dyes should be used.

Size of idols

The mention of size in the guidelines is an important point as larger idols require more amount of water for immersion. 

As far as possible, low height and eco-friendly idols (made with natural clay, idols stuffed with eco-friendly food materials such as corn, spinach, wheat and vegetable powder), idols decorated with biodegradable, organic colours such as turmeric, chandan and gerua etc., (list of natural, bio-degradable and non-toxic annexed as Annexure-I) only should be used for offering poojas to avoid impact on environment.


In the interest of protection of environment, Urban and Local bodies (ULBs) shall impose restrictions on height of the idol to the idol making agencies or manufacturer or craftsman or artisans (as lesser the size of the idol better would be the immersion process and less consumption of materials required for making idols) depending on the availability of water bodies, provisions made for idol immersions by the ULBs. 


What to immerse? Where to immerse? How to immerse?

As far as possible, immersion of small idols should be done at their homes in eco-friendly manner i.e., in a bucket filled with water and idol be kept in immersed state until it dissolves completely.

As far as possible idol immersion in Rivers/Ponds/Lakes shall be encouraged only at specific designated artificial confined tanks/ponds with liner made with well graded/highly impervious clay or eco synthetic liner, on the banks shall be promoted. 

In case of Idol immersion in sea, immersion may be done between low tide line (LTL) and high tide line (HTL) (irrespective of its depth) and only at designated areas identified by the Coastal Zone Management Authorities in the States/UTs. 

All the flowers, leaves and artificial ornaments of idols should be removed prior to immersion of idols and only such idols may be immersed in a designated place provided with safety provisions. 


How are they going to implement these guidelines?

A number of regulatory mechanisms have been suggested the the Urban and Local Bodies who have been authorised to implement the guidelines...these include:

1. Licenses to be issued for artisans using natural materials only as per a specified list of permissible materials

2. Unregistered artisans prohibited from making and selling idols

3. Organising committees to buy idols only from registered artisans

4. Large scale manufacturers to register with ULB for a fee and a deposit.

5. Cancellation of license and forfiet of deposit on violation of guidelines.

6. Awards to organising committees who promote the use of natural materials

7. Detailed management plan to be submitted for large scale community celebrations 

8. A visarjan fee to be collected from devotees to manage the immersion and disposal costs 


Disposal of materials

The guidelines for disposal of solids after immersion addresses idols, decorations and all other nirmalya such as flowers etc 


Waste collection centre in the vicinity of the designated temporary/artificial idol immersion sites or locations should be arranged for ensuring collection of segregated materials (such as flowers, leaves, decorating materials etc.,) prior to idol immersion. All waste collection centres should have a provision of colour coded bins of adequate size for collection and storage of segregated materials.

Also, all the collected and segregated materials should be transported and disposed of periodically or within 24 hours of completion of idol immersion in accordance with the prevailing provisions of Solid Waste Management Rules 2016, as amended notified under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986

Sanitary workers shall also be deployed at all the temporary immersion sites for ensuring removal of bio-degradable items like flowers, leaves, clothes, ornaments etc. prior to idol immersion at the designated areas. 

 Littering or burning of solid wastes comprising of used flowers, clothes, decorating materials, recovered material such as Bamboo and wooden logs, straw structures etc. so generated at the immersion sites or on the banks of water body should be prohibited strictly.

Practices that would lead to some economic benefits like returning the visarjit idols to the idol maker or management of solid wastes generated during visarjan activities in different localities for household as well as large community festivals shall be ensured in accordance with the prevailing rules by the Local/Urban bodies

Monitoring water quality

The guidelines also advise about treatment of water after immersion as well the need for desludging ... 


Lime or alum or any other equivalent coagulant should be added in designated temporary lined pond/tank as pre-treatment option for ensuring settling of solids. After completion of immersion, only supernatant water may be allowed to flow into river/pond/lake, as the case may be, after checking for colour and turbidity as per BIS specification for Drinking Water IS 10500:2012. 


Post immersion, with remains of idols and activities such as desludging of the designated area should be undertaken and ensured its disposal as per Solid Waste Management Rules 2016 as amended thereafter, within 24 hours by the concerned ULBs, as per these guidelines.


Concerned State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) in the State/Pollution Control Committee (PCC) in the Union Territory Administration should conduct water quality assessment of the water bodies, preferably in Class-I cities (having population more than one lac), at three stages i.e. Pre-immersion, during immersion and post-immersion. During post-festival, samples should be collected preferably after 3 rd, 5 th and 7 th and 9 th day of the festival. 


Considering the size of water body, appropriate number of sampling locations may be determined in order to get a fairly representative assessment of water quality during the afore-said periods. Sampling should be done at least 100 m away (downstream side in case of flowing water bodies-rivers) from the immersion site/location to avoid turbulence effect.


For ascertaining water quality, Physico-chemical parameters such as pH, DO, Color, BOD, COD, Conductivity, Turbidity, TDS, Chloride, TSS, Hardness, Total Alkalinity and Metals (such as Chromium, Lead, Zinc, Copper, Cadmium, Mercury, Antimony, Barium, Cobalt, Manganese, Strontium) may be analyzed.

Apart from the water samples, sediment samples also be collected during pre-immersion, during immersion and post-immersion and collected sediment samples be analysed for the metals (such as Chromium, Lead, Zinc, Copper, Cadmium, Mercury, Antimony, Barium, Cobalt, Manganese, Strontium) 

We can do this together! Join Us on the 20 Aug Thursday...

The revisions to the Guidelines for Immersion are a welcome step forward into making the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi totally ecofriendly... and we can do more - click on the link below to see how we can take this further ...

Read our review of the Revised Guidelines here

Join us in a discussion on the guidelines and how you can participate in this effort to protect our rivers and water bodies and minimising waste. The session will include discussions with Jeevit Nadi, Oikos, Ecological Society , eCoexist and Swach.

You are invited to a Zoom meeting. 

When: Aug 20, 2020 04:00 PM India 

Register in advance for this meeting: 

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

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The Croak is a weekly environmental newsletter put out by the eCoexist team. It is the voice of the environment on its last legs, the final croak that can either be a plea for attention or a call of triumph as the frogs jump out of the well of ignorance and denial. Satirical, urgent and wise the newsletter brings to your attention, topics of global environmental relevance as well as emerging encouraging alternatives. Put together by a team of passionate Nature lovers, The Croak hopes to look at the environmental crisis in its face. It is a tool to reconnect readers to Nature, through questioning and self reflection. To understand the outer environment as a reflection of our own inner state, individually and as a species. And to take responsibility for enabling change.
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