The Central Puja Committee (CPC) wants to do its part in making sure that the Durga Puja festival does not add to Shillong’s traffic malaise and pollution levels.
The Hindu holiday will be celebrated from October 2 to 5 this year, with 257 community pandals and five private pandals in the state, 137 of which will be in Khasi-Jaiñtia Hills and 120 in Garo Hills.
Durga Puja is one of the biggest holidays in the state and Shillong, which alone will have 69 pandals, gets a big influx of tourists during this period.
To mitigate some of the effects of the festival, the CPC has urged those celebrating it to walk or use public transport as much as possible and avoid the use of private cars, as Shillong’s traffic problem has reached saturation point.
CPC president Naba Bhattacharjee, who is also a passionate environmentalist, said that the state government has also been requested to run buses for the public up to 11:30pm on the puja days on selected routes in Shillong to enable festival goers to get around without having to use private vehicles.
“We are requesting all the devotees to utilise the public buses or to walk or go for carpooling rather than take out their individual vehicles in order to prevent extreme traffic jams and avoid the problem of parking,” Bhattacharjee said, adding that traffic chaos should not become a source of problems for others who are not celebrating the festival.
Concerning river pollution, he said that the CPC expects that all idols will not be made up of any artificial materials this year. The CPC will also conduct two cleaning drives, first on Saturday and then again within 36 hours after the puja.
“All community puja committees and organisers of private pujas are requested not to immerse any puja waste materials in the river,” Bhattacharjee cautioned. “And no community puja committee and individual puja performers are supposed to immerse any idols and puja waste in any other river or stream but must use the Polo immersion ghat only.”
The CPC is ready to go one step further next year and have only a symbolic “dip and lift” of the idols into the river but it needs the government to commit to providing heavy lifting equipment to make this a reality.
Meanwhile, he also informed that the CPC has completed and submitted all the paperwork to the government for the proposed construction of a permanent multi-storied structure at the immersion ghat at an estimated cost of Rs 1.35 crore.