Filth to greet Sabarimala pilgrims

via By K Jayaprakash - www.expressbuzz.com published on November 12, 2008


SABARIMALA: As the Sabarimala pilgrimage season is about to begin, around 40 million pilgrims arriving from across the country will be welcomed at the holy shrine and its surroundings by, guess what, sheer waste. Some synthetic. Some stinking.


Every year, a record 30-40 million pilgrims arrive for darshan at the hill shrine located in the ecologically sensitive Periyar Tiger Reserve during the season starting November and running through January.

The scenes at Sabarimala which would be hosting one of the world’s largest pilgrimage confluences were utterly alarming.

The abode of Lord Ayyappa, considered holy by many, remains marred by filth, leaking septic tanks of abandoned toilets and stinking urinals, all being frequented by a swarm of wild boars. Though plastic materials are banned in the area, virtually a sea of plastic waste had taken over the surroundings.

Hundreds of tractors loaded with heaps of groceries roared up to the base of the shrine, raising a blanket of dust all over.

Both sides of the Pampa- Sannidhanam trekking route and the traditional walkways and the forest within the 7 sq km radius of the shrine are literally carpeted with empty plastic bottles, thrown-away containers of soft-drinks, rose water and oil, wrappers of biscuits and wafers, camphor pouches, leftover food and fruit peels.A survey held in 2005-06 as a prelude to prepare the Sabarimala Master Plan had found that the Pampa-Sannidhanam area together generated 2,978 tonnes of waste in the season.

Of this, 300 tonne was plastic alone.

The Travancore Devaswom Board, the administrator of the temple, claims that the number of pilgrims grows by 10 percent every year. Naturally, the waste will also swell in proportion. But the survey failed to give the full picture of the waste generation as it had not taken into account of the waste dumped in the forest area.


The TDB is primarily responsible for removing and disposal of waste in Sabarimala and the surrounding areas. The waste in the Pampa-Sannidhanam area is disposed of by two incinerators. The tiny diesel plants with a combined capacity of 700kg/hr can consume only 17 tonnes at once. Hence, even if they are run roundthe- clock only about 1,100 tonnes of waste could be treated during the season. Hence, nearly 1,878 tonnes of waste will be left untreated. Of this, roughly 187 tonnes could be plastic and other synthetic waste.“I’d say that even the amount of waste said to be treated is also cooked up,” said Sukumara Pillai, general secretary, Pampa Pariraksha Samiti.

“The real amount of waste collected and disposed of is much less. Worse, during the peak of the season, the incinerators cannot be operated owing to practical difficulties of taking the waste by tractors through the crowd to the plants. That leaves around even more waste left untouched,” he said.The remaining waste after disposing of at the incinerators is dumped in the yards adjacent to them.

Wild boars freely stroll around savouring the leftovers and other waste, turning the scene all the more messy and filthy.

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