Residents demand underground drainage system soon in Kollur

The stench on the banks of Agni Tirtha, a tributary of River Souparnika, which flows in front of the famous Sri Mookambika Temple, is unbearable. Plastic bottles and bags float in the river. Sewage water from the nearby lodges also finds its way into the river. A swarm of small flies can be seen flying over the river.

Mookambika Temple, established by the exponent of Adwaita philosophy Adi Shankaracharya, attracts devotees not only from the State, but also from Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. The Agni Tirtha flows less than half a kilometre and meets another tributary Kashi Tirtha at a place called Sangama in Kollur to form the River Souparnika.

At Sangama, the difference in colour and purity of the two tributaries comes out clearly. Though both the tributaries take their birth in the Kodachadri Mountains, the Kashi Tirtha water is pure as it comes straight from the forests. But the Agni Tirtha flows through Kollur village and accumulates all the sewage and plastic waste. Its water has a dark tinge.

The lack of an underground drainage system and sewage treatment plant is at the root of the problem. The pathetic state of affairs has raised the hackles of residents. Krishna Poojary, a taxi driver, said that the pollution of the river had worsened in the last decade, especially since 2000, as the number of devotees visiting the temple had increased.

Social activist Harish Tholar said that it was not just the hotels, even sewage from some guest houses run by the temple was going into the river. “Though an amount of Rs. 3 to Rs. 5 is collected from persons using toilets here, there is no sewage disposal system,” he said.

Gowri Devadiga, former trustee of the temple and Taluk Panchayat member, said that a couple of decades ago, the river was known for its purity. “But now anyone who goes to bathe is bound to end with skin problems,” she said.

Tatiana, a retired English professor from Chechnya, who now lives in France, visits Kollur annually since 2008, said: “Something should be done urgently to clean the river.”

K.K. Sabu, president of Kodachadri Parisara Samrakshana Trust, said that the polluted water of River Souparnika flows for about 20 kilometres through the Mookambika Wildlife Sanctuary. “The health of birds and animals in the sanctuary and those consuming this water is bound to be affected,” he said.

Isha Vittaladas Swami of Kemar Math, Honorary president of the trust, said that the Kodachadri mountain ranges had 64 herbal plants. Hence, the water originating from here was regarded not just sacred but also medicinal. But now it was all polluted.

“The government should not only construct an underground drainage system, but also install a sewage treatment plant. If no action is taken, we will hold a dharna in front of the Deputy Commissioner’s Office in Udupi,” he said.

DC’s Reaction

M.T. Reju, Deputy Commissioner, told The Hindu that the Karnataka Urban Water Supply and Sewerage Board (KUWSSB) had done a detailed estimate of Rs. 11.52 crore for laying an underground drainage system for entire Kollur Gram Panchayat. “This proposal is under the active consideration of the government,” he said.

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