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`Many points missing in Pampa Action Plan'

G.K. Nair

KOCHI, Jan. 8

THE Pampa Action Plan submitted to the Centre by the State Government does not seem have fully followed the guidelines of the National River Conservation Authority (NRCA) that has included the Pampa river in its national programme.

An expert committee constituted by the State Government to prepare a detailed project report recently came out with "a second part of the feasibility study report with estimate" titled `Scheme for abatement of pollution in Pampa river'.

Several important components that had to be covered in the project were found to be absent in the technical committee's report that was submitted to the Centre by the Chief Minister on December 19, 2002 according to Mr N.K. Sukumaran Nair, General Secretary, Pampa Parirakshana Samiti, an environmental organisation which has been spearheading a movement to make the Pampa river and its basin pollution-free.

The report prepared by the Government is not in line with the guidelines set by the NRCA and hence it is unlikely that the report would be accepted by the National Authority, which is engaged in conserving 27 rivers in 16 States at an estimated cost of Rs 3,329 crore, he told Business Line.

The report has included several projects such as mobile latrines, causeways, vented crossbars, augmenting of existing water supply schemes, check dams, parks, etc., which fall outside the schemes of the NRCA, he added.

The highlights of the report are setting up of sewage treatment plants, surface drains, bathing ghats, etc., at Sabarimala, Pampa, Kalaketty, Nilackal and Pampa valley at a cost of Rs 47.47 crore.

Other plans include providing rural sanitation in 22 panchayats in the river basin at a cost of Rs 11 crore and building townships at Naranammoozhy, Vadasserikara, Ranny, Kozhenchery, Mannar and Edathua at Rs 113.72 crore.

Besides, Rs 5 crore has been earmarked for detailed survey.

According to the technical report for the first phase, Rs 69.26 crore is required while the second and third phases will cost Rs 63.75 crore and Rs 43.41 crore respectively, accounting for a total requirement of Rs 276.42 crore for the project alone.

In addition, Rs 1.58 crore has been earmarked for unforeseen items and Rs 41.70 crore for 15 per cent cost escalation.

"Thus, the total investment is estimated to touch Rs 320 crore," he said.

Surprisingly, only 65 per cent of the estimated cost of the project would be utilised for pollution abatement programmes such as sewage treatment, solid waste treatment, construction of latrine complex, bathing ghats, slaughter houses, rural sanitation, etc.

About 35 per cent of the project cost would cover activities such as construction of causeways, retaining walls, tourist complexes, etc.

As per the directions from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, the State Pollution Control Board (PCB) had conducted a pre-feasibility study which was submitted to the authorities.

But the State Government was required to submit the detailed project report adhering to the guidelines of the NRCA which has to bear 70 per cent of the total cost of the project.

The rest could be shared by the beneficiaries such as local bodies and other establishments such as the Travancore Devaswom Board.

The action plan proposed by the PCB involved construction of check dams in the upstream side to store and regulate water in the lean period (Rs 4.90 crore); providing measures for rain water harvesting in the upstream (Rs 27.02 crore); providing sufficient sanitary facilities to the pilgrims at Sabarimala, Pampa and en route transit camps (Rs 17.48 crore) and creating facilities for collection, conveyance, treatment and disposal of surface drainage at these places (Rs 13.82 crore).

Other highlights include providing facilities for collection, conveyance, treatment and disposal of sewage and sullage generated in the townships situated on the bank of Pampa river (Rs 126.69 crore); creating facilities for improving sanitary system available in the panchayats in the river basin (Rs 29.74) and provision of facilities for collection, conveyance, treatment and disposal of solid waste generated in the towns and pilgrim centres situated on the banks of the river (Rs 16.07 crore).

Besides, the proposal aims at providing suitable crematorium at a cost of Rs 2.75 crore, measures to protect river banks, rejuvenation of tributaries, providing or improving bathing ghats, etc., at Rs 19.84 crore and bio-medical waste management facilities.

Thus, for implementing the schemes chalked out by the PCB, a total investment of Rs 272.19 crore is needed.

Several construction activities envisaged in the Government report are absent in the PCB report, Mr Nair said.

The need for implementing the Pampa Action Plan is to improve the water quality of the river and at the same time extend basic facilities to the pilgrims.

Besides, it would benefit lakhs of people residing in the river basin, including those in the downstream stretches who depend on the river for their essential needs.

Above all, its implementation would not only clean up the Pampa river but fulfil the hopes and aspirations of millions of pilgrims visiting Sabarimala, a PCB senior official said.

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