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21 Nov 2019, Edition - 1591, Thursday

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Coimbatore

An answer to all the prayers of environmentalists The Green Ganesha

Umaima Shafiq

A Coimbatore technology college has found the right material mix to prepare idols of Lord Vinayagar or Ganesha, the elephant-headed god, that will make him dissolve in water and hence totally eco-friendly.

COIMBATORE:
Now, here come proven and genuinely Green Lord Ganesha or Vinayaga idols ahead of Vinayagar Chathurthi that falls on September 2. Yes, the Green Ganesha is the answer to all the prayers of environmentalists who were crying hoarse over pollution and environmental degradation caused by the immersion of huge idols made out of plaster of Paris and other non-soluble materials.

Coimbatore’s Kumaraguru College of Technology (KCT) has successfully prepared a completely soluble idol made out of bagasse and tapioca starch, which is now in the second year of commercial production.

Niveda R, an apparel technology major and research associate at the KCT fibre research centre told The Covai Post, “We were inspired to make these eco-friendly idols after witnessing intense public protests against pollution of water bodies, two years ago.

Our natural fibre research centre at KCT began searching for the optimal fibre. We chose bagasse or sugarcane waste with many microbial and absorbent properties to make the idol of Lord Ganapathy. For binding, we used Fevicol and made our first prototype in January 2018. However, Fevicol is not an eco-friendly resin. So, we tried other resins and chose latex or natural rubber, but that also hardens on touching the water. Finally, we
tried starches and found that tapioca binds best with bagasse.”

Niveda said that ten students and Joint Correspondent Shankar Vanavarayar were core members of the project. The team decided to use moulds to speed up production as manual crafting was time-consuming.

Again, this was a hurdle as the bagasse and starch mix in powder form would not set in conventional rubber or plaster of Paris moulds. So, the KCT team designed metal moulds and finally, the idols were made.

“We made around 750 idols about five to seven inches tall and gifted it to the President, Prime Minister, Chief Minister, some VIPs, corporate companies and social organisations like Siruthuli, besides selling it in college. There was positive feedback and this year we will make about 1,500 idols of 8-9 inches, almost double of the number we made last year.

Each idol takes about 2-3 minutes to make and half a day to set. Since our students attend classes, our housekeeping ladies help. So, there are about 50 members involved in the production. The students of Varnam painting and art club has volunteered to paint the idols with natural colours minus chemicals like magnesium, lead or zinc. We plan to sell it in organic stores and in college. We also plan to make other god idols probably for golu in similar manner,” concluded Niveda.

There is also a preference for traditional clay Vinayagar moulds that dissolve easily. A Saraswathi, a homemaker in Salem told The Covai Post,

“These idols are cheap and water-soluble besides being eco-friendly. I prefer them to the garishly painted versions sold today.”

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