Government departments, voluntary organisations team up for keeping an eye on pollution

The annual Chithirai Perunthiruvizha of Samayapuram Arulmigu Mariamman Temple was held in its usual grandeur. The highlight of the 10-day festival was the pulling of the decorated car on the final day on Tuesday.

Although thousands of devotees from various parts of the State participated in the car festival as usual, what made the celebrations different this year was the government departments in association with the voluntary organisations took the lead in taking care of the health and hygiene aspects and utilising the opportunity on creating awareness on the same.

Usually, the hygiene takes a backseat on such occasions posing a threat to the public health. A large number of people gathering at a place during summer can cause outbreak of epidemics such as cholera and chicken pox if attention is not paid to the sanitation and hygiene. Bacterial and viral infections erupt because of open defecation and urination, scarcity of protected drinking water, and humid weather.

The district administration, the Department of Town Panchayats and the Samayapuram Kannanur Town Panchayat came up with a well laid out health norms were strictly adhered to by all concerned during the festival days.

The Tamil Nadu Food Safety and Drug Administration Department (Food Safety Division), Tiruchi district, played a key role in checking the sale of outdated mineral water bottles, sachets, food packets, cold drinks, and other eatables. Led by Dr. A. Ramakrishnan, Tiruchi district designated officer, a team of block-level Food Safety Inspectors kept a close watch on the shops and hotels situated in and around Samayapuram temple and the temporary ones which sprang up during the festival days.

In coordination with the S. Kannanur Town Panchayat officials, they seized a large quantity of stale food and destroyed them.

The philanthropists make it a point to provide free food to the devotees during the festival days. Marriage halls are hired to prepare and supply food to the devotees. The Food Safety Department team along with the NSS volunteers of the colleges conducted surprise inspection of marriage halls and so on to ensure that the food was prepared in a hygienic manner. The food brought from other parts of the district was allowed to be distributed only after a thorough check by these teams.

The S. Kannanur Town Panchayat provided basic infrastructure to meet the demand of the visiting devotees. It installed water tanks at 75 points and supplied chlorinated drinking water round the clock.

While temporary toilets were set up in 10 points, mobile toilets were in place in half a dozen points. Temporary bus stands were set up, so also taxi stands.

The Youth Exnora International, Tiruchi, created awareness among the devotees on protecting environment by getting rid of plastic bags and so on. In association with the environment division of the Public Works Department, the Youth Exnora organised a special photo exhibition at a temporary venue near the Samayapuram temple arch. Photographs depicting natural environment, the impact of plastic bags and so on in polluting the environment, water sources and so on were displayed. The exhibition evoked good response, says P. Mohan, State president of the Youth Exnora International.

Besides, in association with the members of the Students Exnora unit of the Bharathidasan University Constituent College, Lalgudi, it carried a special campaign. The student volunteers distributed non-oven bags to the devotees after collecting the plastic bags they were carrying.

The people were encouraged to deposit the plastic articles with the Exnora unit and they were given coupons. Gold coins and other prizes would be given to them by conducting lucky draw of the coupons.

The project evoked a good response as more than 5,400 coupons were distributed, says Mr. Mohan.

Samayapuram temple area has been declared a plastic-free zone by the district administration and this was brought to the notice of the devotees by the Exnora by pressing into a mobile van and by displaying giant banners enroute to the temple.

“It was a rewarding experience and we enjoyed it. People themselves volunteered to deposit the plastic bags and other articles with us and collect the cloth bags. We will be happy to participate in similar campaigns regularly,” says P. Parthiban, member of the Students Exnora unit of Bharathidasan University Constituent College.

The initiative of the government agencies and voluntary organisations has come in for appreciation from all quarters. This strategy should be adopted in each and every event where people converge in large numbers, says V. Raghuraman, Pathologist of Dr. Varley’s Laboratory and Research Institute.

The health authorities should check the quality of water used in preparing summer juices, as bacterial contamination of water can cause throat infection and also adopts hygienic methods in hand wash, disposal of used plates and so on, Dr. Raghuraman says.