Mora kotal, or diminished high tide, made idol immersion difficult in the ghats along the Hooghly on Wednesday (Dashami).
Over 2,500 idols were immersed from 16 ghats along the river on Wednesday. Far fewer idols were immersed on Thursday. The count was around 80 till 7pm.
Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) officials had anticipated fewer immersions during the day compared with Dashami because many people are averse to immersing deities on a Thursday. “We do not expect the number to reach even 200 today,” a KMC official said on Thursday evening.
Debasish Kumar, mayoral council member who supervises immersions on behalf of the KMC, said the water level in the Hooghly was “low even during high tide” because of mora kotal on Dashami.
An official of the KMC said: “The water level will start rising after a few days. Since Durga Puja was held early this year, the problem of low water level is being felt.”
The low water level slowed the pace of immersion as removing the idols from the water took more time and the organisers wanted the idols to be fully immersed before the structures were removed.
A higher level would have enabled faster immersion and removal of idols. “Even at 3am on Dashami, there was a queue of more than 20 idols in one of the ghats,” the official said.
Judges Ghat witnessed the maximum number of immersions (772) on Wednesday, followed by Baje Kadamtala Ghat (449) and Nimtala Ghat (332). Among the other ghats along the Hooghly, Mayer Ghat, Sarbamangala Ghat and Doi Ghat saw more than 100 immersions each. “Normally, during this time of the year, the high tide level remains diminished, called mora kotal in local parlance, and hence there is less water,” said Sugata Hazra, an oceanographer at Jadavpur University.
According to a senior Kolkata Port Trust official, the highest high tide level on Dashami was around 4.8 metres, measured around 10am in Kidderpore.
The highest high tide level in the Hooghly on certain days reaches around 5.6 metres. “Normally, during this time, the water level during high tide remains at the highest point for less than an hour before gradually coming down. At the time when the maximum number of idols were being immersed, the water level was around 3 to 4 metres,” the official said.
There was virtually no water available to immerse the idols in late evening. The Telegraph found the stretch adjacent to the bank leading to the anchored barge at Baje Kadamtala Ghat full of immersed idols stuck in mud as there was no water. Hence, it was taking significant time to lift the idols with the barge-mounted crane, adding to the pollution of the river.
“Yes, lack of water was making immersion difficult, which was adding to the pollution of the river,” said environment activist Subhas Datta, who had earlier moved court to make immersions environment-friendly. Around 1,000 personnel from the KMC were managing the immersions with 200-odd labourers from the port trust. “We have mobile cranes and earth movers at three major ghats — Baje Kadamtala Ghat, Judges Ghat and Nimtala Ghat — to remove the idols after immersion. Additionally, a crane mounted on a barge was deployed at Baje Kadamtala Ghat,” said Somnath Sen, a senior engineer of the KMC.