Water Quality during Festival in Kolkata, West Bengal

by Rohan Nath

Introduction 

West Bengal and particularly Kolkata is renowned for the festival called ‘Durga Puja’ during  the period of Navaratri (Fig. 1). The city is decorated with colours, lights and joy for at least  10 days. From the beginning of the sixth day until the ninth day, the ‘pandals’ (the structure  where the Goddesses idol are kept) are open for the visitors. The Visarjan or (idol immersion  in water) occurs on the tenth day also known as Dashami (Fig. 2).

Fig. 1. The grand, bright and colourful Durga Puja in Kolkata. Image Source:  https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/explore/story/69132/a-beginners-guide-to durga-puja-in-kolkata

Based on the Hindu Mythology, the collective energy of all Gods/Goddesses resulted in the  emergence of Goddess Durga as an embodiment of Shakti or divine feminine power, to  abolish the demon Mahishasura, who possessed the power of immortality against any man or  God.  

The ceremony of Visarjan is attended by enthusiastic devotees that gather in huge numbers to  carry the Goddess Durga to the ‘ghats’ (the banks of the Ganga where numerous religious  ceremonies are held) to be immersed in the River Ganga.  

The water quality was assessed by researchers, checking for three toxic heavy metals:  cadmium, lead and chromium in six major ghats along the Ganga stretch in Kolkata during  the pre-festival period and post-festival period.

Fig. 2. Idol immersion of Goddess Durga in Kolkata. Image Source:  
https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/explore/story/69132/a-beginners-guide-to durga-puja-in-kolkata

Location 

Six major zones for immersion were studied (Fig. 3). 

Selective heavy metals analysis

Fig. 3. Six major immersion zones during Durga Puja in Kolkata. Image Source: Zaman,  S., Gobato, R., Pramanick, P., Biswas, P., Chatterjee, U., Mitra, S., & Mitra, A. (2018).  Water quality of the River Ganga in and around the city of Kolkata during and after  Goddess Durga immersion. Parana Journal of Science and Education, 4(9), 1-7.

Results 

The concentration of lead, chromium and cadmium during the pre-festival period and post festival period was analysed (Fig. 4).

Fig. 4. The concentration of heavy metals during pre-festival and post-festival period. A – Lead; B – Chromium; C- Cadmium. Image Source: Zaman, S., Gobato, R., Pramanick, P.,  Biswas, P., Chatterjee, U., Mitra, S., & Mitra, A. (2018). Water quality of the River  Ganga in and around the city of Kolkata during and after Goddess Durga  immersion. Parana Journal of Science and Education, 4(9), 1-7.

Discussion 

The immersion of idols has led to a considerable increase in the dissolved heavy metals  concentrations in all the six study sites (Table 1). 

Table 1. 

The tradition of idol immersion has been practised for years in India. Recent water pollution  surges have been a matter of concern for the citizens of Kolkata. Several steps can be taken to  mitigate the water pollution due to idol immersion: 

i. Traditional clay idols should be recommended instead of baked clay idols.

ii. Toxic chemicals and inorganic paints should be banned for painting idols.

iii. Materials used for worship like clothes, flowers, decorating materials like plastics  and papers should be disintegrated and collected for recycling or composting. 

The government can implement these measures to reduce the level of water contamination  and ensure a period of health and festive joy for the people of Kolkata.  

Reference 1. Zaman, S., Gobato, R., Pramanick, P., Biswas, P., Chatterjee, U., Mitra, S., & Mitra,  A. (2018). Water quality of the River Ganga in and around the city of Kolkata during  and after Goddess Durga immersion. Parana Journal of Science and Education, 4(9),  1-7.

Published by LakesOfIndia

Lakes of India is an E.F.I initiative aimed at sensitizing the larger public on freshwater habitats across the country. A blog platform where one can read about lakes across India. You can become a guest blogger to write about a lake in your hometown and initiate an action to protect that lake.

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