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Polluted Pampa crying for attention

G.K. Nair


A view of the Pampa river in Pampa.

Kochi , Feb. 2

INADEQUATE sewage disposal and sanitation facilities coupled with very thin water flow in the Pampa river during the recently concluded Sabarimala pilgrim season have raised the coliform bacteria level in the river water to 3.2 lakh in 100 ml of water.

Anticipating such a worst situation, the Union Ministry of Environments and Forests (MoEF) had accepted the Pampa Action Plan (PAP) in principle in 2001 and the National River Conservation Directorate (NRCD) had sanctioned Rs 320 crore, 70 per cent of it to be borne by the Centre.

To start with the first phase, NRCD has already approved Rs 18.45 crore and had sanctioned the Centre's (70 per cent) share of Rs 12.90 crore, Mr N.K. Sukumaran Nair, General Secretary, Pampa Samrakshana Samithi (PSS), told Business Line.

The State Government, he said, had issued an order on November 18, 2003 for implementing the first phase of the PAP under which seven schemes would be implemented by the Travancore Devaswom Board, three by the Irrigation Department and one by the Kerala Water Authority. It was also decided to constitute a monitory committee headed by the Water Resources Principal Secretary.

But the implementation of the project is moving at a snail's pace, Mr Nair said. Given the alarming situation and the lacklustre approach of the authorities, the PSS had conducted a seminar at Kozhencherry in Pathanamthitta district on January 16 - 17, attended by the Public Enterprises Selection Board Chairman, Mr T.K.A. Nair, and the PSS Vice-President, Dr Thomas P. Thomas. The participants had urged the Government to set up a Pampa River Basin Authority for implementing the PAP, given the various technical, scientific, economical and social issues involved.

For this, the Government might have to enact a law apart from constituting a monitoring committee by bringing in representatives of environmental organisations and from the local self-government bodies, Mr Nair said.

The implementation of the project on a war-footing is inevitable as millions of pilgrims from all over the country visit Sabarimala every year and the next pilgrim season would begin on November 17.

Congregation of very large number of people in a limited area within the forest for a limited period exerts enormous pressure on the environment. All pilgrims are customarily used to have a dip in this holy river. The pilgrims use the river for all their requirements.

The large number of hotels and shops during the season discharge huge volume of both liquid and solid wastes into the river directly or indirectly. All these pollute the river beyond limits, affecting the health of not only the pilgrims but also the residents on the banks of the river downstream, Mr Nair pointed out.

Therefore, implementation of the first phase of the work at a faster pace assumes importance, he said. It is imperative that water quality of Pamba river be improved/upgraded in its entire stretch not only for the benefit of pilgrims but also for improving water quality in the downstream stretches, especially in the water logged areas of Kuttanad and Vembanadu lake.

In fact, the water quality monitoring done by the Kerala State Pollution Control Board, as per the directions of the High Court, had brought to light the urgent need for an action plan for cleaning up the river, Mr Nair said.

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, are all going to contribute significantly to the pollution load of the river.

Evaluation had been made to identify the major sources of pollution from towns and panchayats and plans had been chalked out for controlling and eliminating these pollution sources, he said. One of the worst hit areas would be the Kuttanad where majority of the inhabitants depend mainly on this river for potable water, Mr Nair added.

More Stories on : Environment | Water | Kerala

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