Satna: Students of a government school in Madhya Pradesh’s Satna district have made eco-friendly Ganesha idols with potash alum in their chemistry lab to spread the message of ‘science for the environment’.
A group of eight students from Venkata Higher Secondary Excellence School No. 1 pondered the idea during their class with their chemistry teacher, Dr. Ramanuja Pathak, last week.
The idols, about 1.5 feet tall, were molded and crafted on the day of Ganesh Chaturthi on 10 September.
“We were discussing in class how idols made of plaster of paris and paint pollute the environment and damage the ecosystem after immersion.
That’s when we decided to put science into practice and hence the idea of making an eco-friendly alum Ganesha idol in our chemistry lab.”
Potassium alum or simply called alum is a water purifier and a double-salt chemical compound that not only purifies water but also leaves no harmful residue behind.
Alum also has antiseptic properties and many medicinal uses, he said.
Pathak said, “When we immerse idols made of alum in water bodies, they do not get polluted, but become pure.”
Materials made from plaster of paris are hard and insoluble in water as they contain calcium sulphate and eventually pollute and choke the water body.
He said idols made of clay are also decorated with wood, varnish, paint, fodder, paper and other items which are not eco-friendly and pollute the water.
The students have now installed the idol made by them in the chemistry laboratory and plan to immerse it on the day of Ganesh Visarjan.
Pranshu Gautam, a student, said, “We first started the experiment with heating alum on a gas burner in the lab and melting it in a glass beaker. It was then cooled and cast into a cast made of wet flour.”
School teachers reported that potash alum melts at 92 °C and starts boiling around 120 °C.
It is then left to cool for about 30 minutes after which the liquid alum is poured into a cast made in the shape of Ganesha.
Pathak said that alum can be bought from the market for Rs 40 per kg and one such idol 1.5-2 feet high can be made for just Rs 3.
He said that the crystalline idol looks good even without paints or colours, however, organic dyes can be used to beautify it.
Pathak said that he and his students want to take this experiment further and prepare Durga idols during the upcoming Durga Puja/Dussehra festival, so that the message reaches as many people as possible and everyone can take care of our environment. To come together in the initiative of celebrating festivals. “
He said that once successful, such idols of Ganesha and Durga can also be made commercially.