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Working panel for Sabarimala development to meet today

G.K. Nair

Time-bound action plan for facilities to pilgrims under discussion

The first phase of the Pampa Action Plan will be taken up before the pilgrimage season begins as it is important for protecting the river from severe pollution. The major components of the first phase are setting up of sewage treatment plants.

Kochi , Aug. 6

The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which controls and administers over 1,200 temples, including the Sabarimala forest shrine, is concentrating on creating maximum facilities for pilgrims at Sabarimala, Pampa and Nilakkal before the commencement of the pilgrimage season on November 16.

The Ecosmart, a Delhi-based consultancy firm that was entrusted with preparing a detailed master plan for Sabarimala, has already submitted it to the government. Based on this, a working committee constituted by the government and headed by the Principal Secretary (Devaswom), Mr Bharat Bhooshan, will meet on Monday to chalk out a time-bound action plan as to "what could be done before the beginning of the season," Mr G. Raman Nair, President of TDB, told Business Line.

He said that representatives from all the departments concerned such as Forest, PWD, Health and from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) are expected to participate. Mr Nair said the TDB would take up the first phase of the Pampa Action Plan (PAP) under the National River Conservation Programme (NRCP) as it was important for protecting the river from severe pollution. The major components of the first phase are setting up of sewage treatment plants at Sabarimala.

The Board has already created a parking area for all types of vehicles, besides constructing temporary pilgrim shelters, 400 toilets and drinking water facilities, Mr Nair said.

The Board is awaiting the release of 12.67 hectares of forestland under the Periyar Tiger Reserve near Sabarimala Sannidhanam at Marakoottam where a queue complex and other facilities, including health care units etc. for the pilgrims would be constructed.

The TDB chief said that constructions would be done in such a way that all the trees would be retained. Use of cement would be restricted up to plinth area, he said.

The projects approved by the Centre about two years ago are: Three MCD Sewage plants and sewage collection tank at Sabarimala; 1.5 MCD sewage plant at Pampa; 400 latrines and 100 bathrooms at Sabarimala and 300 latrines at Pampa; solid waste treatment facility, mobile latrines, development of drainages, check dams at Kakkathod and Urukzhy besides across Kakkayar and Pampa, check dam below the "Arattu Ghat" and bathing ghats. The total cost of the projects stood at Rs14.85 crore and with expected cost escalation of Rs2.23 crore and eight per cent centage of Rs 1.67 crore, the aggregate investment would come to Rs18.45 crore.

The Centre would provide 70 per cent of the total cost and its non-implementation would deprive the state of the funds.

A master plan for developing the entire area of 110.52 ha at Nilakkal as a permanent base camp having all modern amenities/facilities for the pilgrims has also been in the plan prepared by a Delhi-based consultancy.

Mr Nair also said that all the remedial measures as suggested by the astrologers at the recently held deva prasnam at Sabarimala would be taken up in the Malayalam month of Chingam (From Aug. 17 to Sept. 16).

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