Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Tuesday, Jul 09, 2002
Industry & Economy
Centre to discuss Pampa pollution issue
The highly polluted Pampa river has been included in the National River Conservation Programme of the Union Government.
KOCHI, July 8
THE Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has convened a meeting to discuss the pre-feasibility study report of the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (KPCB) on the Pampa river, probably as a prelude to granting administrative sanction for preparing a detailed project report.
The meeting has been scheduled for this week in New Delhi where the report submitted by KPCB would be discussed with its experts, official sources told Business Line.
They also said that the Union Ministry had given Rs 3 lakh for conducting the study after the Centre had included the Pampa river in its National River Conservation Programme (NRCP).
The Union Government appears to be serious about this project given the importance of the river which is directly related to the Sabarimala pilgrimage, Mr N.K. Sukumaran Nair, General Secretary, Pampa Samrakshana Samiti - an NGO which has been instrumental in getting the Pampa included in the NRCP - told Business Line.
According to KPCB, due to open defecation, discharge of raw sewage, domestic and commercial waste, etc., especially during the pilgrim season, the river has been subjected to a very high level of water pollution.
Even though some temporary measures were taken by the Travancore Devaswom Board and the State Government to provide basic sanitary facilities to the pilgrims, all the waste generated was finally reaching the river.
The quality of water in the river has further deteriorated due to the uncontrolled disposal of sewage and other waste from the townships and the rural areas nearby.
All sources of pollution in the townships situated in the basin have had a polluting impact on the river water quality directly or indirectly.
All these aspects were considered and the action was prepared for cleaning up and the river and its environmental upkeep, the KPCB sources said.
Throughout the country, 152 projects are under implementation as part of the NRCP, involving an estimated expenditure of Rs 3,329 crore.
Pollution control projects in 27 rivers spread over 16 States are currently under way and are expected to be completed by 2005.
"It is for the first time that a river in Kerala has been included in the NRCP,'' Mr Nair said.
According to the KPCB sources, the proposal on Pampa Action Plan was cleared in principle by the NRCP meeting chaired by the Union Minister for Environment and Forests, Mr T.R. Baalu last March.
"As per the directions from the Ministry, the board has conducted the pre-feasibility study,'' they said.
The draft report was discussed with the people's representatives, local bodies, NGOs, various Government agencies and others by organising a workshop on March 2, 2002.
Other important factors considered while formulating the action plan were the fast changing nature and intensity of human activity and the subsequent pollution load on the river. The development of agriculture, urbanisation associated with industrialisation, piped water supply in rural areas without facilities for safe disposal of night soil and solid waste, etc., all contribute significantly to the pollution.
Evaluation had been made to identify the major sources of pollution from towns and panchayats and plans were chalked out for controlling and eliminating these sources.
The sources also said that people's participation right from the formulation stage was essential for successful implementation and continued operation of the system proposed in the action plan.
The total cost of the action plans proposed would come to Rs 272.19 crore.
The proposal includes construction of check dams in the upstream side to store and regulate water in the river during the lean period and construction of causeways etc., providing measures for rainwater harvesting, provide sufficient sanitary facilities to the pilgrims at Sabarimala, Pampa and transit camps en route, providing facilities for collection, conveyance and treatment and disposal of sewage generated in the townships situated in the bank of the river.
Mr Nair said that the projects under the NRCP would cover 39 panchayats from Kumily in Idukki to Thakazhi in Kuttanad and the Chengannur Municipality.
The 179-km Pampa river passes through the Idukki, Pathanamthitta and Alappuzha districts and over 50 lakh people use the water from it for drinking and cooking purposes every day. There are 18 drinking water projects currently associated with the river but without any purification facilities, he added.
"Given this scenario, the implementation of the action plans would improve the water quality, and at the same time help extend basic facilities to the pilgrims.'' It would also be beneficial to the lakhs of people residing in the Pampa river basin who depend on it, the sources said.
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