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Cheap paints, thermocol pose threat to Yamuna

Source : Times of India, 12 October 2016, New Delhi

With hundreds of Puja committees reaching the ghats for idol immersion on Vijaydashami, checking the pollution level in the Yamuna remained a challenge for agencies.
While the number of idols made of plaster of Paris (PoP) had gone down considerably this year, cheap paints containing heavy metals and decorative items wrapped around the idols were posing a major threat to the ecology of the river. It seems some Puja committees did not pay heed to instructions issued by the Central Pollution Control Board.
Specific collection points were set up on all ghats where non-biodegradable items could be dumped before immersion. "PoP usage has gone down considerably and most idols are made from clay. We have set up designated areas where materials used on the idols can be taken off and collected," said Subhankar Chatterjee, joint secretary of the South Delhi immersion committee at Kalindi Kunj Ghat.
There were close to 150 pandals registered with the joint immersion committee at Kalindi Kunj Ghat alone. Over 50 civil defence volunteers were stationed to monitor what materials were going into the river.
"We are keeping a close eye on polluting agents. Any paint that is leaving colour or appears to be harmful is being checked thoroughly," added Chatterjee.
According to guidelines issued by the central and state pollution control agencies, idols need to be made from biodegradable materials. The rules say that only water soluble paint and dyes should be used for the colouring process. It is also mandatory to remove decorative materials before immersing the idols in the river.
Data collected by Delhi Pollution Control Committee last month showed a biological oxygen demand (BOD) of 26 mg/l at Qudesia Ghat and 20 mg/l at ITO bridge. DPCC is once again conducting a study of the water quality at 13 different ghats post immersion. This time, BOD is expected to be higher with the amount of heavy metals and non-biodegradable items being added to the river. The BOD of any healthy waterbody should be 3 mg/l.
"We have issued the guidelines as adviosory. All ghats will be monitored to ensure that pollution is reduced in the river," said a senior CPCB official.
Toxics Link, an environmental NGO, claims that usage of cheap paints laden with heavy metals has remained a source of pollution in the Yamuna. "While PoP idols have gone down, cheap paints are still being used. Thermocol and other items used for decorations also end up in the river, which are extremely harmful," said Satish Sinha, associate director at Toxics Link.


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