In our country, festivals are a huge part of our tradition and thanks to these, we end up getting so many extra holidays in the year too! The celebration of these festivals, be it Diwali or Holi or Ganesh Chaturthi or Eid or Christmas or Janamasthami, has been going on since time immemorial and are the reason for the coming together of many people and cultures. However, the thing that has changed over the years is, the way that we celebrate these days. In an attempt to have fun and follow our religious values, is it possible that we are creating a huge burden for our planet?
The way we celebrate our festivals, although fun and with great gusto, is harming our environment and with so many people celebrating all over the country, it is a nightmare for the land we live on. Air pollution, water pollution, soil pollution and contamination of groundwater… you name it and its there. People tend to not realize that they are using items that are toxic, not to mention are unhealthy for them as well.
Let’s start with Holi. The festival of colors, it’s probably the most fun and celebrated festival in the country. However, most of the colors that are being sold in the markets today are extremely toxic, for both you and the environment. Not only is it hard to wash off, hence wasting a lot of water, but it can causes rashes and infections on the skin. Also, it seeps through the soil and contaminates the ground water, making the little water that we have left also unusable. Natural colors like turmeric, coffee powder, beet extract and other such products are easier to wash off, good or harmless on the skin and don’t harm the environment. Even the use of water balloons and plastics should be minimized if not done away with completely, adding safety and more satisfaction to the colorful day.
Another major festival that tends to be extremely polluting due to the way it is celebrated is Diwali. It is the festival of lights, but has become the most hazardous festival, not only for the atmosphere but also for the children and animals out there. The immense noises caused by the crackers scare the animals and birds away, sometimes deafening them. There are several instances of children burnt or injured during bursting crackers, not to mention the unhealthy air breathed by everyone for the next few days, causing a large number of respiratory ailments. The air gets extremely polluted by the greenhouse gases released by the bursting and burning of the crackers, which have toxic components for lighting up like that. No doubt it looks good as it lights up the skies, but at what cost? Instead, celebrating Diwali with friends and family, distributing sweets and clothes to the poor, will not only help the people who do not have the good fortune that you do, hence giving you a sense of satisfaction, but will also be a more loving and socially exciting day, reducing a great threat to the atmosphere as well! Or even if you want to burst crackers, doing it as a community instead of individuals is great and in fact a more fun option!
One very important festival, especially in the west, is Ganesh Chaturthi. A ten day celebration full of fun things; singing, dancing, yummy food and amazing games, is also a cause of worry, especially to the marine environment .earlier, the Ganpati idols used to be made of clay, painted with natural colors and decorated with leaves and flowers. However, the trends have changed and the lighter and cheaper plaster of Paris (POP) has replaced the mud and clay used earlier. POP is not bio-degradable, so when the idol is immersed in the sea, the remains stay there for a long time, getting washed away into the aquatic environment and is toxic for the marine fauna. Also, the decorations on the idols have changed from leaves, flowers and organic and vegetable paint to thermocol and plastic accessories, plastic garlands and toxic paints and dyes. Instead of these, use idols that are made of fiber, clay, or paper and painted with organic colors that are not hazardous to the water and can be degraded by the natural bacterial decomposes and detrivores. Also, instead of using natural sources of water like lakes and the sea, try using a bucket or artificially created tanks for this purpose. These few steps will go a long way in saving the environment, not to mention making it a cleaner, greener and more sophisticated Ganesh Chaturthi.
All in all, most festivals do tend to be a cause of concern in the green department and small steps taken by each of us can cause a big difference overall. Avoiding air, water and soil pollution in our own small ways will go a long way in ensuring that we have a blast, without forgetting our instinctive duties. Green and eco-friendly decorations and celebrations will make for a happier and healthier festivity, also a better and healthier environment