KOLKATA, 8 SEPT: The city may be famous for Durga Puja worldwide, but the festive fervour spells doom for bio-diversity and drives numerous species of birds and insects to death. The most famous Pujas are held in parks, that are the only green zones, apart from the Maidan, in a city like Kolkata. The crowd in such parks during the Pujas not only tramples the greenery, but because of such high footfall in the parks, countless insects and worms that live under the ground are killed. As a result, these parks remain a dead zone for almost 3-4 months, said Ms Mukuta Mukherjee, an environmental activist.
In Salt Lake, which is home to several avian species due to a large number of trees, most of the Pujas are becoming theme-driven and are organised in parks. The Bidhannagar Municipality in this year’s budget earmarked Rs 1.5 crore for the beautification and maintenance of parks and preservation of greenery. A sizeable part of the amount goes down the drain, as after the Pujas, the parks become wasteland with littered polythene bags, holes in the ground after the bamboo rods used for the pandals are uprooted, and bushes and topiary destroyed.
Ms Mukherjee said that the ostentatious Puja celebrations disrupt the whole life cycles of the creatures. “At a time when the world is talking about global warming and climate change, how can we behave in such a way?” she asked, adding high-power lights set up around the pandals distract birds and disrupt their migratory routes, often ending up killing them. Similarly, it also kills thousands of species of insects. “During Pujas large numbers of fruit bats are killed or dislocated. They eat mosquito larvae. Imagine today if such bats become extinct. Wouldn’t that have any effect on malaria outbreak?” Mrs Mukherjee said.
Recently, some residents of BJ Block in Salt Lake had objected to setting up of pandal in the BJ Block park. They said that there was no point holding the Pujas in the park when there was a community centre for the purpose and also because it would harm the greenery in the park. The president of the Puja committee, Mr Arup Pal, said that BJ Block was not the only block to have Pujas in the park and Puja is held in the park as people prefer theme-based Pujas, which was not possible in community centre. When the complainants took the matter to the municipality and the SDO, Mr Maloy Mukhopadhyay, he suggested them to solve the matter among themselves in their general body meet. However, according to Mr DP Banerjee, a resident of the block and one of the complainants, no such meet took place. Moreover, he said that Mr Mukhopadhyay told them that the matter is with the chairperson of the municipality, Mrs Krishna Chakraborty. Mr Mukhopadhyay said he had told the complainants that force should not be used to stop pujas as it will hurt religious sentiments. The principal secretary of the environment department, Mr RPS Kahlon, said that it was indeed a matter of concern that unsustainable practices cause damage to the environment, but permission to hold Pujas is never sought from the environment department. It is up to the state government to decide whether steps could be taken to include environment department in the list of authorities who give permission for Pujas, he added.