NEW YORK, U.S., September 23, 2013 (Times Ledger): Although Queens residents of all stripes are guilty of littering or dumping in Jamaica Bay, Hindu religious rites get some blame for some of the more visible debris. The Hindu rite of Ganga Pooja involves making an offering into a body of water as a way of cleansing one's sins.
Unfortunately, not all of these materials used in the offerings are biodegradable. Fabric outfits, plastic statues (murthis), aluminum pans and Styrofoam wash up on the beaches and nature preserves along Rockaway's coastline. On Aug. 31, a group of conservation-minded Hindus, in conjunction with the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance, decided to pitch in by cleaning up the Dubos Point Wildlife Sanctuary in Rockaway.
Sadhana, a Coalition of Progressive Hindus is an advocacy group based around the city that tries to advocate a socially conscious, progressive agenda, focusing on inserting tolerance, inclusiveness, non-violence (ahimsa) and faith in action (sadhana) into Hindu and interfaith discourse. As such, activities such as beach cleanups promote awareness of the moral imperative to care for the environment and promote greener practices in worship.
In response to the problem of debris at local beaches, Sadhana launched an environmental initiative known as Project Prithvi. As Sadhana founding member Aminta Kilawan explained, Project Prithvi "aims to protect both tradition and the environment in a way that benefits society at large."
Efforts to establish a designated site for religious rites has been met with silence from the city Parks Department, and Kilawan said that "in the past, city parks officials have been quick to close off the beach, post signs and even issue fines to put a stop to any water offerings." She pointed out that this leads Hindus to dispose of the materials secretly in Jamaica Bay, which is close to Richmond Hill and Ozone Park.