The city’s water bodies may get a significantly lesser dose of toxic paint and Plaster of Paris this Ganesh Chaturthi as the number of people opting for eco-friendly idols has gone up going by the brisk sales of such idols. In the last three years, the increase in demand for these idols has resulted in more craftsmen from West Bengal, who are known for their sand and clay work, coming down to the city every year during this season. With the festival fast approaching, these idol makers are busy applying the final touches to their creations.

“In the past few years, business has improved here as people are now more aware about the environment. Three years ago, selling our stock was a herculean task, but this time the demand is much more than the total number of idols being made,” said Lakshmi Narayan, a seller at Chaderghat who has been in the business for around 10 years.

Three years ago, there were just a handful of sellers of mud idols. Now, around 30 temporary sheds called karkhanas are found in areas like Chaderghat, Balanagar, Afzalgunj, Uppal, Alwal, Miyapur, Shivarampally and others where the idol makers stay and work on the idols. Chandra Pal, a mud idol seller for the past 20 years said, “The newer ones are at Miyapur, Uppal, Rakshapuram near Barkas and Shivarampally. With so many competitors entering the business, it is getting increasingly difficult to find land for setting up karkhanas too.” He added that this year, after several representations, GHMC agreed to give permission to put up a temporary shed which will be taken down once Navratri begins, only after a meeting with the sellers which was held last month.

Despite the initial hurdles, these idol sellers are not complaining as business has picked up immensely this year. With profit margins ranging from Rs 75 000 to Rs 1 lakh on a total investment of around Rs 1 lakh, sellers are optimistic about making the most of the festival. “The price of medium-sized idols of around 10 feet in height ranges from Rs 10 000 to Rs 35 000. Until 2009, getting around 20 to 30 customers was considered a good season and even they would bargain heavily. But this year, nearly 100 customers have already approached us and our investment is likely to double,” said Nagarani Nagesh, another seller in the city.

The idol makers from West Bengal spend about two to eight months here, living in temporary sheds and meticulously working on the elaborate designs which are sometimes requested by customers.

Ranjit Pal, one such craftsman at Alwal said, “I have been coming here with my father for the last 25 years. We come in January and leave only after Diwali as we also make Durga and Kaliidols for Dasara and Kali puja. We get to spend just a couple of months with our family in Kolkata. But the demand here is growing and there is a lot of scope, so we keep coming every year.”