TEMPORARY PONDS, PERMANENT GAINS
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New Delhi: Even from the Nehru Place metro station, you could hear the throbbing sounds of the dhaak (drums), and as you approached Astha Kunj park around half a kilometre away, piercing chants of “BoloDurgaMaiki jai!” added to Tuesday’s festive din. The 200-acre park had one of the temporary ponds created for the immersion of Durga idols. Devotees from areas in the vicinity such as Chittaranjan Park, Kalkaji and Alaknanda gathered there and lowered the idols into the water with the help of a crane.
Puja organising committee members and many others said that while immersion of this sort was definitely a break from tradition, it was a step in the right direction. “Nothing is more important than the environment,” asserted Amit Mukherjee, member of the Alaknanda Puja Samiti. “I remember when we used to carry the idols with our hands into the water. Over the years, we started using cranes to lower them into the river. That too was a break from tradition. So there is no reason why we can’t adapt to immersion in artificial ponds because this is the right thing to do.”
Aam Aadmi Party MLA from Greater Kailash Saurabh Bharadwaj was at the site overseeing the arrangement right from the first slot for immersion at 12 noon. “We carried out the shuddhikaran of the water with Ganga jal. It was linked to the main pipe to ensure enough water in the pond,” Bharadwaj said, adding that the flowers would be composted and the wooden framework of the idols disposed of by the South Delhi Municipal Corporation.
While the puja samitis were happy with the arrangements, many complained about the water levels in the ponds. “The idols are not getting properly submerged,” pointed out Amitabha Sarkar of Kalkaji DDA Flats Durga Puja Samiti. Balaram Das of Miloni Samiti too said, “The water level is really low, but we still support the cause of protecting the environment.” Sarkar, however, was effusive about the security arrangements at the artificial pond.
Deepshikha Banerjee, a CR Park resident, felt that immersion in a pond didn’t quite have the same feel of going to the Yamuna. “But,” she said, “this is a good step. Even in Kolkata, most idols are immersed in ponds, not the river.”
The eco-friendly method also offered new benefits. “This place is near our locality and we have space to park our cars. There is no dust like on the Yamuna banks,” noted Bikash Ghosh, a Kalkaji resident. “Also, since there is no overcrowding, you can bring the entire family without worrying about their safety.” His view was corroborated by Satarupa Biswas, also from Kalkaji, who was happy to have been able to bring her seven-year-old daughter Shivalika to an immersion for the first time.
Many pujas in CR Park such as at Cooperative Ground, Mela Ground and Pocket 52 had their own ponds dug in the pandal area. The Dakshin Palli Durga Puja Samiti of Pocket 52, in fact, pioneered the immersion of idols in temporary ponds six years ago.
Not all artificial ponds, however, were as accommodating as at Astha Kunj. At RK Puram Sector 12, the Sarojini Nagar Durga Puja Samiti struggled to submerge the idol in the shallow water. “The pond should have been better made,” said Samir Kumar Das, general secretary of the samiti, though he shrugged off the inconvenience because “this will help the environment”.
At Subhash Park in south Delhi, members of the Moti Bagh Durga Puja Samiti were dismayed to find that the temporary pond was already crammed with immersed idols before they reached. “There is no one from any civic agency to remove the remnants of the immersed idols,” complained RK Biswas. It took the samiti members more than an hour to move the older debris to one end of the pit before they could slip their idol into the water.
In east Delhi’s Mayur Vihar Phase I, puja organisers had been allotted two hours to reach and carry out the immersion. Three pits had been dug, each over 25 feet wide and with three feet of water. However civil defence volunteers pointed out that the polythene sheets lining the pits had ripped easily and leaked water. “The DJB tankers keep replenishing the water, but the process takes time. This means people have to wait,” said Jaspreet Singh, a civil defence volunteer.
This wait for water vexed some puja samitis. As MK Saha, chairman, Kali Bari Mayur Vihar Samiti, said, “The overall arrangements were good, but the government needs to get a fix on the water supply. The depth of the water here was a mere 2-3 feet and we had to wait for the tankers for more water.”
After the monitoring committee expressing concern earlier this year at the Yamuna’s water being poisoned by idols, the National Green Tribunal directed the city authorities to stop immersion in the river. Delhi government responded by creating the artificial ponds and allotting time and place to each puja samiti.