Day after idol immersion, clean-up drive begins at 89 artificial ponds

DELHI : Idols ranging from a few inches to several feet and ghats full of debris — a day after idol immersion for Durga Puja took place for the first time in artificial ponds in Delhi, agencies started the mammoth clean-up even as a few more people trickled in to immerse idols.

In a first, the Delhi government made 89 artificial ponds across the city for people to immerse idols in, so that pollutants do not enter the Yamuna, with the National Green Tribunal (NGT) keeping close watch. A similar approach was tried out during Ganpati Visarjan in August.

At the Kalindi Kunj site, trucks loaded with the idols and filled to the brim with people kept pouring in even on Wednesday. A couple of police officers sat at the site, ensuring order as groups danced and celebrated the festival to drumbeats and music.

A worker from the South civic body was at the site to shovel garbage and debris into his truck. Many idols immersed on Tuesday also lay around. “We aren’t touching the idols yet, only garbage, plastic bags and debris,” said Akash, the sanitation worker.

An SDMC official said, “After the government notified the ads of using artificial ponds, we informed RWAs. In SDMC zones, we identified 168 idol makers and registered them. The cleaning process was underway yesterday and even today.” Another official said, “The ponds will be drained and used for watering plants by horticulture departments. We will take the sludge and mud idols leftover, and send it to landfill sites. They are biodegradable.”

On Tuesday, thousands of people who came to different immersion sites were met by police officers and district administration staff, who directed them to the artificial ponds. In areas near the Yamuna, stricter checking was ordered to ensure no one immersed idols in the river.

Over the years, the number of associations and individuals who come to immerse Durga Puja idols has gone up in the city. NGT and environmentalists have been raising the issue of pollution, and government reports over the years have shown that the quality of water in the river deteriorates significantly after immersion is complete. Using materials such as plaster of paris and toxic paints has also been banned.

On Wednesday, too, police personnel were posted at immersion sites. “We are here just to ensure that everything is peaceful,” said Anoop Singh, an officer-in-charge at Kalindi Kunj.

Many from nearby slum clusters loaded the wooden sticks used for idol structures to construct their own makeshift houses. Mohammad Aslam, a labourer with four children, said, “Police said we could load up our cart to use them in jhuggis.”

At a park in Mayur Vihar Phase III, where four ponds were made, Sushil KumarModi, a vendor, and some others complained that there wasn’t enough water in the ponds. “Three out of four ponds are empty and the one which had water was only a few feet deep. We cannot immerse any idol here” he said