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.
Keeping our rivers pure
Pune lies on the western margin of the Deccan plateau, on the leeward side of the Sahyadri mountain range. The city is blessed with Mula and Mutha Rivers that originate in the Sahyadri ranges and traverse across Pune. The two rivers further meet and upon their confluence Mula-Mutha river is formed which further drains itself into the Bhima River. The total length of these three rivers traversing through Pune Municipal Corporation is 44km approximately. Out of this, 22.2km is Mula River, 10.4km is Mutha River and 11.8km is Mula Mutha River.
What is 'Nirmalya' ?

A word that connotes purity - it is used to describe the offerrings that are made to the diety during worship. The offerrings range from flowers, grasses, sweets to include decor that may have been used to adorn the idols as well. Once the ritual is over, these offerrings that may start to wilt are not considered as 'waste' as such. As they carry the blessings of the worship ritual, they are to be respectfully returned to the earth.

A beautiful concept - except when the offerings contain plastics and thermocol they do end up creating 'waste' that does not degrade. 
Once a household festival, the public Ganesh Visarjan was popularized by Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar in 1892 in a bid to promote communal harmony and nationalism amongst people. We have since forgotten its roots and 127 years on, we have left a trail of destruction in the name of devotion the brunt of which is borne largely by our rivers today.
Coconuts and flowers collected at the ghats of the river.
The need to seggregate Nirmalya
Large quantities of waste nirmalya are left at the banks of the river during the festival. 
Burden on the River
Rivers are the core of any activity related to festivals, be it the Ganesh or the Durga festival or the upcoming Moharram and Bail Pola. The strain on the river is not just caused by idols, but also the copious amounts of Nirmalya thrown into the river throughout the celebrations. Past records have shown upwards of 150 tonnes of material being immersed in the river during the festivals. 

In the early years of the Eco Ganesh campaign started by eCoexist we looked at the problem caused by the large quantities of Nirmalya being collected on the river banks of Pune. There are sixteen 'ghats'.. points on the river where one can walk down steps to the river level and conduct worship. At these ghats, we found that large quantities of Nirmalya were either being thrown into the river or dumped on the river banks. 

The contained items as diverse  as coconuts, sweet boxes, cloth offerrings, fruits and flowers. They were generally bundled all together into a plastic bag and thrown into the river.
eCoexist did a study of the ghats in Pune, and invited Swach - the ragpickers cooperative to start a seggregation and collection programme with us. We ran this project successfully for several years until it was adopted by the Cummins group who took it forward with Swach.
The women of Swach learning how to segregate waste flowers along with eCoexist: 2011
Initiatives by Swach
Image: Swach
In the year 2018, Swach saved about 120 tonnes of material from being immersed in the river. They adopted 18 ghats along the river to divert the idols and nirmalya from being immersed in the river. The Nirmalya waste is turned to compost with the help of the organization GoVidnyan and distributed to farmers.

For 2019, the Swach drive will adopt 20 ghats along the stretch on the river.  The plan of action includes:
  1. Diverting idols to be immersed in the PMC and PCMC installed tanks along these ghats, rather than in the river.
  2. Collection of wet Nirmalya to be taken for composting.
  3. Dry waste collected separately to be sorted and disposed off accordingly.
Besides waste-pickers and and staff stationed at these ghats, there is also a call for volunteers to help with the mammoth task.

One can register to volunteer by submitting the following form:

Visit the Facebook page of Swach here
About Swach
Projects by Jeevit Nadi
Image: Jeevitnadi
Jeevitnadi, the living river foundation, has been working on rejuvenation of Pune rivers through public participation since the last couple of years. They are also a knowledge partner with Swach and volunteer along with the Swach staff at the ghats for collection. The focus of Jeevitnadi is to give environment friendly alternatives to people to joyfully celebrate the festival, with a lesser burden on the environment.  Their plan of action includes:
  1. Awareness sessions to educate people and provide alternatives, much before the advent of the festival.
  2. Urge people to understand the scientific data available for any ingredient before utilizing them.
  3. Participating in panel discussions, workshops, sharing the scientific data through various media.
  4. Dialogue with the Ganesh Mandals, awareness in various residential societies as well as schools and colleges, through a mobile exhibition called ‘Story of a River’.
  5. Partnering with Swach on collection of Nirmalya, diverting idols and collecting plastic and decoration material at source.
Visit the Facebook page of Jeevitnadi here.
About Jeevitnadi
Jui Tawade, Architect, Co-Convener INTACH Pune Regional Chapter, helped to compile this newsletter. Jui has also been training the womens groups at Ahwalwadi on various hand skills along with eCoexist. 
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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