The most serious impact of the Ganesh festival on the natural environment is due to the immersion of idols made of Plaster of Paris into lakes, rivers and the sea. Traditionally, the Ganesh idol was sculpted out of earth taken from nearby one’s home. After worshipping the divinity in this earth idol, it was returned back to the Earth by immersing it in a nearby water body. This cycle represented the cycle of creation and dissolution in Nature.
However, as the production of Ganesh idols on a commercial basis grew, the earthen or natural clay was replaced by Plaster of Paris. Plaster is a man made material, easier to mould, lighter and less expensive than clay. However, plaster takes much longer to dissolve and in the process of dissolution releases toxic elements into the water body. The chemical paints used to adorn these plaster idols, themselves contain heavy metals like mercury and cadmium.
On the final day of the Ganesh festival thousands of plaster idols are immersed into water bodies by devotees. These increase the level of acidity in the water and the content of heavy metals. The day after the immersion, shoals of dead fish can be seen floating on the surface of the water body as a result of this sudden increase.
Gods are for worship, not for the show.