With increasing environmental consciousness, people have been looking for alternatives to Plaster of Paris (PoP) in Ganesha idols. Further, depleting water bodies have also been a major concern in places with little or no access to water.
A similar problem was faced by the people in Nagardale village in Karnataka’s Belagavi district, where their local water body– an open well located 25 km away, dried up leaving the town looking for other options.
The villagers started using the check dams which were on the outskirts of the village. But, the youth in the village decided that that was not the best option as it would get polluted.
Pradeep Devan and Amrut Gurav, IT engineers in Pune, garnished the support of around 30 youths and managed to muster Rs 65,000 to construct an 8,000-litre water tank to immerse the Ganesha idols. But the PoP-dissolved water had to be disposed of somehow, and complications could still arise.
So while browsing the internet for solutions, they came across a method which was adopted by the BMC in Mumbai, which offered a simple solution. It was the result of an experiment conducted by the National Chemical Laboratory (NCL).
PoP is made of calcium sulphate. The experiment aimed to turn PoP into something useful–like fertilisers. Ammonium bicarbonate was added to the immersion water, which turned it into two products– ammonium sulphate and calcium hydroxide. While the former (ammonium sulphate) is an excellent fertiliser, the latter (calcium hydroxide) can be used to make bricks.
With the help of Shubhangi Umbarkar, a scientist at the National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), the experiment was brought to the village in Karnataka, where the lab provided 300 kg of free ammonium bicarbonate. The villagers were encouraged to immerse the idols in the tank’s bicarbonate water.
When nearly 450 Ganesha idols were immersed, the fertiliser was retrieved to be used in the fields. This inspired nearby villages and town panchayats to take similar steps for converting idols to fertiliser.
The triumph of the experiment and the initiative lies in the people for taking measures to preserve their culture along with the environment. Kudos to the youth Pradeep Devan and Amrut Gurav for seeking out the solution!
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)