It was called off in 2010 following widespread protests

After a three-year gap, fears about direct treatment of water in the Njunangar stream and the Pampa river with contaminated chemicals have come back to haunt people in Pathanamthitta district.

Some political functionaries and high-level officials of the Kerala State Pollution Control Board, the Travancore Devaswom Board and the State government are making yet another attempt to treat the water using a ferrous chloride-titania mixture, which is a contaminated by-product of a private company in Ernakulam district, V.N. Gopinatha Pillai, vice-president of the Kerala River Protection Council, says.

The Devaswom Board had made a similar attempt on the directions of the Pollution Control Board during the Makaravilakku festival in 2009 and 2010.

The attempt had invited strong protests from experts and environmental groups, and the government intervened to stop it in January 2010. Mr. Pillai told The Hindu here on Thursday that the visit of a 30-member team, led by a Pollution Control Board member, to the polluted Njunangar stream on Tuesday was part of a move by certain business lobbies to revive the treatment.

He said the two Boards had faced strong criticism from the government and experts previously for “permitting disposal of chemical waste in the Njunangar stream on the pretext of water treatment,” posing a health risk to the people and wild animals.

S. Sajeevan, Chairman of the Pollution Control Board, said he was not aware of the Board member’s visit to Njunangar. He said there was no question of permitting any direct chemical treatment of the river water as it was against the Water Act, 1974.

The free flow of filth into the Njunangar stream exposes the indifference on the part of the two Boards and the high-power committee for implementation of the Sabarimala Master Plan in addressing the problem of pollution.

People have been concerned about the inordinate delay in setting up a sewage treatment plant at the Sannidhanam, leading to the pollution of the forest environs and the river system.

A recent meeting of the high-power committee in Aluva has decided to set up a plant on a priority basis. However, many experts say the authorities should go for a decentralised system comprising of small modules near the existing sewage collection tanks to reduce the project cost and ensure sewage disposal in an eco-friendly manner. The pollution of the Pampa and the Njunangar stream calls for quick action.

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