As part of religious festivals held in September and October, worshipped idols are immersed in lakes and rivers. However, they often
are made from non-biodegradable materials such as cement, plaster of paris and plastic, as well as toxic dyes and paints.
The toxins — including the metals mercury, cadmium and lead — pollute the water, eventually killing fish and contaminating food crops through irrigation, according to Shyam Asolekar of the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai.
Traditional idols were made of clay and vegetable paints, but the commercialisation of festivals has lead to brighter idols using less
eco-friendly materials. As public awareness of environmental issues increases, festivals and customs in India, where about 80% of the
population is Hindu, have come under greater scrutiny.
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