Decrying the practice of immersion of idols in water, the Madras High Court on 29 October observed that it pollutes the ecosystem and poses a threat to fish and birds and termed it is "an illiterate attitude towards water that should be put to an end."
Justice S Vaidyanathan made the observations while hearing the bail pleas of two men who had been slapped with attempt to murder charges and arrested for a clash during a 'Vinayaka Chaturthi' idol immersion festival last month.
Conceding that enforcing every environmental law at every stage of idol-making is a Herculean task, the judge suggested that artificial ponds could be built in specific areas for immersion of idols during festive season.
"It undoubtedly is an effective way of putting an end to the pollution of water bodies," he said.
The judge said though religious significance is attached to the traditional practice of immersing idols in water bodies, it has its own ill-effects as well.
"On account of the immersion, materials like clay, bamboo, grass, wood, metals, jute, colours, painted cloth, flowers, incense sticks, dhoop, camphor and ash are released into water bodies. Added clay results in siltation of lakes and toxic chemicals used to make idols tend to leach out and pose serious problems of water pollution," he said.
On the adverse impact of such materials on marine and other micro organisms, he said pollution from immersion of such idols also damages the ecosystem, kills fish and other marine life and poses danger to those dependent on water like birds, animals and human beings as it reduces the oxygen level in water.
"It is not rational, prudent and judicious to pollute an already scarce commodity. This illiterate attitude towards water should be put to an end."
The judge noted that the government had taken strict steps to implement guidelines of the pollution control board regarding immersion of idols in water bodies.
As per guidelines, he said, idols should be made from natural materials as described in the holy scripts. Use of traditional clay for idol making rather than baked clay and plaster of paris, may be encouraged, allowed and promoted.
Pollution Control Board norms also say painting of idols should be discouraged. "In case idols are to be painted, water soluble and non-toxic natural dyes should be used. Use of toxic and non-biodegradable chemical dyes for painting idols should be strictly prohibited," he pointed out.
Use of thermocol or any non-biodegradable items for decoration and idol making should strictly be avoided as it leads to exothermic self-accelerating decomposition creating environmental pollution, he said quoting the guidelines.