Going a step beyond its clean environs movement titled Azhagana Kovai, the Residents' Awareness Association of Coimbatore has taken upon itself the task of initiating a facelift to the foothills of Marudamalai. The temple of Lord Muruga is located atop the hill.

RAAC has prepared an action plan for re-laying roads, carrying out improvements to the bus stands and public toilets and ensuring enough drinking water facility.

The Rs.1.08 crore plan includes: two bus shelters at Rs.5.7 lakh, two toilet blocks at Rs.21 lakh, a dining block at Rs.7.3 lakh, bitumen road at Rs. 41 lakh, landscaping at Rs. 21 lakh and improvements to parking lot for tourists at nearly Rs.10 lakh.

RAAC began this effort a couple of months ago when the district administration and various Government agencies began gearing up for the World Classical Tamil Conference to be held here from June 23 to 27.

The association held meetings with the temple authorities and the panchayats of Vadavalli and Somayampalayam to hammer out a solution to the problem of accumulating garbage at the foothills and the deteriorating conditions of the roads and other amenities. In order to provide an impetus to the entire exercise, the association carried out a mass cleaning drive at the foothills on April 3, in association with the local bodies and students of some colleges.

A row of shops and eateries on either side of the approach road only points at the possibility of reckless dumping of garbage. Plastics and paper waste and discarded tender coconut shells litter the entire area.

But, the mass cleaning drive was no permanent solution. A good waste collection and disposal system is necessary at this pilgrimage centre in order to ensure cleanliness. Besides, the road surface in the bus stands and parking lots are in such bad a condition that rain turns it slushy.

The association says the road surface in the stands for the town buses and private tourist buses must be levelled and bitumen flooring provided to prevent soil erosion during rain. There are no toilets and drinking water facility for pilgrims at the foot hills. People coming in tourist buses throw away food packets all over the place as there is no garbage bin. Besides, there is no dining space for them.

RAAC vice-president R.R. Balasundaram says association president C.R. Swaminathan represented this matter to District Collector P. Umanath.

The Collector then organised a meeting of the temple authorities and heads of the local bodies with RAAC to chalk out a plan for a facelift. The Collector also called upon the local bodies and the temple authorities to take necessary action, Mr. Balasundaram says.

During the mass cleaning programme, carried out with the participation of 500 college students, the ‘Wealth out of Waste programme' was also launched at the foothills. “We distributed bags to all the shops at the foothills to store paper and plastic waste, which will be collected by ITC,” he says.

“The entire area was levelled with red soil during the cleaning drive. But, this will be washed away during rain. Therefore, a bitumen surface will have to be provided soon,” he says.

With a view to providing a clear picture of the requirements, RAAC prepared an action plan, along with full estimates, and submitted it in March-end to the temple authorities, Somayampalayam Panchayat and the District Collector. “We appeal to the authorities to take immediate steps [on the plan] and complete the works before [the] World Classical Tamil Conference,” he says.

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