KOLKATA, 7 JULY: Use of lead-free colours by Durga puja organisers will be a criterion for the award of ‘Shera Sharad Nirman Puja Puraskar’ arranged by the department of environment and the state pollution control board.
The pollution control board will also request other organisations to consider this criteria for “Sharad Samman.”
This will not only give an incentive to puja organisers in the state to opt for idols painted with lead-free colours, but also help idol-makers unable to use such colours due to the increase in the cost. This move will also save the rivers in which the idols are finally immersed, as well as their organisms, from lead contamination.
Efforts have been made to phase out colours with a high concentration of lead, especially red and yellow, for the past three years. This bore no results, due to the lack of incentives given to stake-holders. Mr Babu Pal, secretary of Kumartuli Mrit Silpa Sankriti Samity, said, “If we use such colours, the cost of each idol goes up by Rs 600 to Rs 800. The puja organisers simply refuse to pay the increased amount.”
He also cited a number of other problems that have kept them from using environment-friendly colours. “With the colour we use now, we know how many coatings are needed, how it will look after it dries. With the new type of colours, it is very risky,” he said. But, he said that with the incentives given, taking such risks would be easier. They had earlier asked for samples of such colours and some time to try them out first.
Idol-makers are more prone to lead poisoning due to their prolonged exposure to colours that are high on the heavy metal. But since they are comfortable with using old colours, they dodge the question when asked whether they have faced any effect on their health. Many of them do not even know that some very common ailments could be a result of lead poisoning. “The colours we use now have been used by generations of idol-makers, what could be wrong with that,” asked an idol-maker in Kumartuli.
Even though the state pollution control board is set to spread awareness about use of such colours by distributing banners in the city, Howrah and different districts situated on the banks of the river, Mr Pal said that they do not know from where to get such colours. A meeting between the artisans and PCB officials will be held on 24 July to discuss the issue.