Kolkata: The ten-armed warrior Goddess Durga, who was once asked by the Gods to slain the demon Mahishasura, has now been roped in by the West Bengal government to fight environmental pollution!
Durga Puja organisers have been encouraged to use solar power and LED lights to illuminate their pandals while eco-friendly paints worth more than Rs 3 lakhs have been doled out free of cost to hundreds of artisans making Durga idols in the city.
"Possibly we are the first state in the country to have been successful in controlling the usage of lead paints in idols during festivals. Almost two-thirds of all idols made in the state this season are from eco-friendly paints," Biswajit Mukherjee, chief law officer of the state's environment department, told PTI.
Bengals biggest festival Durga Puja, beginning from October 14, is a four day melange of festive fun and devotion which brings everything else in the entire state to a standstill.
More than 200 puja organisers from the city as well as from the surrounding areas like Chuchura and Chandernagore have opted for lead-free colours, he said.
The paints used by artisans in the potters' hub of Kumartuli have a high content of toxic elements like lead, cadmium and chromium.
As over 50,000 idols are immersed into various water bodies each year in the state, it leads to contamination in water making it unfit for the survival of aquatic life and drinking purposes.
Moreover, workers using spray guns to paint idols are sitting ducks. "If the lead molecules are breathed in, it might attack the central nervous system leading to hyperactivity, anaemia, vomiting, kidney damage and even cancer," says Subrata Majumdar, biology professor at the Bose Institute.
Use of lead-free colours and renewable energy by Durga Puja organisers has also been made a criterion for the Shera Sharad Nirman Puja Puraskar, an annual award given by the department of environment and the West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB).
Another awareness campaign run by the West Bengal Green Energy Development Corporation Ltd (WBGEDCL) to promote solar lighting has also tasted fair amount of success.
"Some manufacturers have agreed to provide solar power equipment free of cost to the pandals in return for free publicity at the venue. It is a win-win situation for both of them," says managing director of WBGEDCL S P Gon Choudhuri.