Ganesh Utsav: Can Mumbai Go Eco-Friendly, Yet Be Pocket-Friendly?

Ganesh Utsav: Can Mumbai Go Eco-Friendly, Yet Be Pocket-Friendly?

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Eco-friendly Ganesh Chaturthi is the mantra this year in Mumbai. Just months after the Maharashtra Government banned plastic, pandals are exploring sustainable alternatives. Thermocol and Plaster of Paris decorations are being swapped with eco-friendly materials like cloth and wood. But is it possible to go completely eco-friendly and yet ensure this switch is pocket friendly too? “No,” say Mumbai’s Ganpati pandal committee members.

Many Ganesh pandals have switched to cloth bags instead of polyester packets while distributing prasad. Although cloth works out four times more expensive than plastic, those who have the money, are paying up.

“We usually give out about 1,00,000 (Prasad) bags. Earlier, they were polyester bags but now they are cloth woven bags. The previous bags cost us Rs 3 per unit, which came up to Rs 3,00,000. Now, the cost is Rs 12 per unit, which comes up to Rs 12,00,000. It has increased substantially.”
Amit Pai, co-trustee & spokesperson, GSB Seva Mandal 

Apart from plastic, products like thermocol and Plaster of Paris used for decorations are making way for ply, wood, fibre and even metal. But the switch hasn’t been easy. Decorators in the business break down the difference.

While a 40 sq feet thermocol décor costs about Rs 10,000, a same sized ply and wood décor would cost up to Rs 25,000. Meanwhile, a five-foot-tall Plaster of Paris idol would cost approximately Rs 20,000 but a similar sized clay idol would be much more expensive at Rs 35,000 at least. 
“Compared to last year, we are spending 20%-22% more money this year. We use wood, fabric and metal to make our set and then cover it with fibre. The fibre is reusable and can be used by other pandals as well. 
Siddhesh Korgaonkar, co-treasurer, Ganesh Gully   

Individually, the figures may seem small but with over 2 lakh idols being bought each year, the total amount is significantly higher.

Are There Cheaper Eco-Friendly Alternatives?

Nana Saheb Shendkar, the founder of Utsavi, an organisation that promotes sustainable decoratives, believes cardboard is the answer. With hundreds of cardboard pandals sets put up for exhibition at his workshop in Parel, Shendkar has been manufacturing such sets in bulk.

“Decoration for a five-foot-tall PoP idol costs about Rs 2-3 lakhs. Thermocol would cost about Rs 1-1.5 lakhs. I can deliver the same thing in cardboard for Rs 35,000. You can also use it again.”
Nana Saheb Shendkar, Founder, Utsavi  

Once an owner of a thermocol decorative factory, Shendkar shut down his thriving business in the early 2000s and started producing cardboard sets that are placed behind the Ganesh idol. While profits are hard to come by, he is satisfied with his choices. “Cardboard is reusable, easy to carry, a relatively inexpensive alternative and it is eco-friendly. I’m just happy that I’m able to do my bit for the environment.

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