Ahead of the festive season, the Central government has decided to impose Rs 50,000 penalty for immersing idols in the Ganga or its tributaries, The Indian Express reported on Thursday. The National Mission for Clean Ganga has issued a 15-point directive to chief secretaries in 11 Ganga-basin states, telling them to cordon off the ghats.

The officials have reportedly been told to implement the rules and make alternative arrangements in an “environment-friendly manner”, according to the newspaper. “Adequate arrangements should be made for designated idol-immersion sites within the municipal area or bank of river Ganga and its tributaries by constructing temporary confined ponds with removable synthetic liners at the bottom.”

It also asked states to ensure no synthetic or non-biodegradable material is used to make the idols. “Besides, the use of toxic and non-biodegradable chemical dyes or synthetic paints for painting of idols should be strictly prohibited.”

The missive was sent to Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, and Rajasthan after a meeting last month between representatives of the states and officials of the Ganga mission. The chief secretaries of the 11 states have been asked to submit action-taken reports within seven days of the end of each festival.

In 2014, the Centre launched the Rs 20,000-crore Namami Gange project to revive the river. The Ministry of Environment has claimed that its efforts have led to a reduction in industrial pollution in the river.

However, in June 2018, the National Green Tribunal said no effective steps had been taken to clean the Ganga and the situation was “extraordinarily bad”. In May, the Central Pollution Control Board declared Ganga water unfit for “direct drinking” and bathing in most of the stretch from Uttar Pradesh to West Bengal.

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