Poisonous Gifts


Since the first of September members of an environmental NGO are standing on Yamuna banks in Nizamuddin Bridge.

Cap on their head, mouth and nose covered thanks to a mask, militants of Yamuna Jiya Abhiyan are playing security guards on Nizamuddin Bridge. They try to increase believers’ awareness about the river’s pollution. Pushp Jain is on duty today. From 9.00 am to 12.00 am, then from 2.00 pm to 5.00 pm he is trying to convince Hindus to give him all sort of offerings they came to lay down the waters of the holly river. Tributary of the Gange, the Yamuna River crosses India along 1370 kilometres.

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 “People understand the necessity to fight against pollution. Some people even agreed to let us their gifts instead of dumping them into the Yamuna, but most of them refused,” tells Pushp Jain. Once collected and sorted, the plastic offerings will be recycled and organic wastes will be put into compost by the NGO. But Pushp is aware of the difficulties. “In India, the religious feeling is very strong and it will take a lot of time before our message will be heard.” However, the river Yamuna is also considered to be a goddess. Some members of the Hindu community therefore renounce to offer their gifts in order to protect the river, like this priest here with the NGO this Friday. For him, “Mother Yamuna should be cleaned.”

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 Pictures of gods, coins, and all sorts of objects from coconuts to construction bricks are regularly thrown into the river. But it is in September that the most harmful gifts are offered to the Yamuna. “We will stay here until the first of October because it is a strategic month during the one lots of religious festivals take place, explains Joshp. At the occasion of the Durga Puja festival, colourful idols made of clay are immerged in the river.  These statues can sometimes be 15 feet high and are covered with paintings containing highly cancerous elements such as lead. Once the idols immersed in the water, the lead spreads in the river and its tributaries.

 Even if these religious festivals take place only once a year, it represents nevertheless a major problem. “Toxic elements get accumulated in the water and contaminate human beings via their alimentation during all the year. These substances are then transmitted from generation to generation,” describes Fatma Tasneem, professor in the department of Bio-Sciences at the university of Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi. According to the Central Pollution Board, the Delhi part of the Yamuna is barely 22 kilometres long, but contributes over 70 per cent of the total pollution load. The pollution load received by the River Yamuna during the year 2006 was about 200 tonnes/day.

 Offerings, these poisonous gifts, are not the only responsible. Industries in the surroundings and improper water treatment are also accountable for the high pollution rate of the Yamuna. To consider at a time religious liberties and environment protection, three solutions exist. The government could construct enclosures for the idol immersion or idol makers could use paintings free of toxic products. 

– Carole

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~ by delhidecidela on September 19, 2009.

One Response to “Poisonous Gifts”

  1. Good work. It needs a little re- edit. Please see email!

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