Joint inspections by Goa State Pollution Control Board (GSPCB) and Goa Handicrafts Rural and Small Scale Industries Development Corporation (GHRSSIDC) last year brought to the fore use of plaster of Paris (PoP) mixture to make Ganesh idols, with six artisans being involved in such an activity.
The team had visited 213 artisans last year and collected 55 samples of clay used for making idols, and found Jayant Natekar from Khorlim in Mapusa, Dnyaneshwar Parab from Talapwada in Pirna using imported clay, brought from Kunnur in Karnataka and Pend in Pune, having high concentration of calcium sulphate. between 30.7 per cent and 32.4 per cent. It exceeded the limit of naturally-found calcium sulphate in the clay by ten times.
The calcium sulphate (CaSO4) in natural clay varies from 0.6 per cent to 3.068 per cent, however, it has been recommended to the GSPCB that a cut-off of 5 per cent be maintained as the maximum limit of calcium sulphate. Moreover, out of eight samples of idols analysed for presence of PoP, four artisans were found using plaster of Paris in high concentration.
The test result showed the idols prepared by Ramkrishna Bukkam from Cuncolim contained as high as 56.62 per cent of calcium sulphate which is nearly twenty times higher than the naturally found calcium sulphate in clay.
The other traditional idol makers Gajanan Vantekar and Swapnil Pujari from Vithalpur in Sankhali were also found using plaster of Paris showing values of 25.5 per cent and 29.4 per cent, respectively.
The low concentration of calcium sulphate among the violators was found in an idol prepared by Digambar Gaunkar from Sateri-Thane in Sattari taluka with concentration of 16.95 per cent of calcium sulphate.
These local artisans have been practicing the trade for decades now and no government official has either taken any action or gave any warning against using plaster of Paris.