The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Eco-friendly colours for Durga

The Salt Lake puja that drew crowds last year by building a replica of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts Castle will be the first in the city to use eco-friendly, lead-free colours to paint its idols.

Quite a few puja committees are open to the idea of using lead-free colours for the idols this year but the puja in Salt Lake’s FD block is the only one that has committed itself to the green cause.

Idols are usually painted in colours that have a high percentage of toxic chemicals, particularly lead. After they are immersed, the chemicals pollute rivers and water bodies.

In 1993-95, a Central Pollution Control Board study had found that the concentration of heavy metals increased considerably in the Hooghly water after the immersions. More than 32 tonnes of toxic paints mixed with the water after immersions during the period.

The state pollution control board has recently found that the yellow paint used by the idol-makers in Kumartuli and other places is rich in toxic lead and chromium.

“We are using lead-free paints this year,” Santanu Biswas, the secretary of FD block puja committee, said before a state-appointed committee looking after puja-related pollution.

“The lead-free colours that are available in the market are suitable for painting idols. The cost escalation is nominal, given the puja budget,” said Biswajit Mukherjee, the chief law officer of the environment department and the convener of the state-appointed committee. Mukherjee expressed the hope that lead-free colours would be used on a larger scale next year.

“Idol-makers should be made aware of the positive aspects of lead-free paints,” said Krishnajyoti Goswami, the director of the state chapter of the National Referral Centre for the Prevention of Lead Absorption in India and a member of the state committee.

The organisers of the FD block puja said the use of lead-free paints will go well with their theme — effects of global warming.

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