The State forest department has directed the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) not to dispose off sludge generated in the direct chemical treatment of Njunangar, tributary of river Pampa, into the ecologically sensitive Sabarimala forests that forms part of the Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR).
The TDB started chemical treatment of the Njunangar at Pampa on the foothills of Sabarimala following the directions of Kerala State Pollution Control Board (PCB) a week ago.
The chemical treatment of the natural water source using ferrous chloride-titania mixture had invited strong protests from environmental experts and organisations. They alleged that the chemical treatment using ferrous chloride-titania mix would lead to contamination of the river water with hazardous heavy metals.
However, the PCB authorities have clarified that a major portion of the heavy metals go into the sludge, releasing only the treated water into River Pampa.
Environmentalists alleged that leaving the sludge on the riverbed itself and pumping it into pits in the forests on the river banks will ultimately lead to its flow into the water source along with rain water.
The Forest department has issued a notice to the TDB authorities at Pampa not to pump the sludge into the forests attached to the Periyar Tiger Reserve as it may harm wildlife as well as vegetation.
Meanwhile, the TDB has decided to dig pits in the forest land allotted for Sabarimala development in the PTR to pump sludge into it.
According to official sources, the quality of river water has deteriorated, despite the direct chemical treatment of Njunangar over the past one week.
PCB investigation team at Pampa has observed that the coliform count in the downstream side of the river treatment at Pampa was 1,14,000 per every 100 ml of water on January 9 and 98,000 on January 7.
Experts alleged that the PCB analysis shows that the chemical treatment has had little impact in reducing the coliform count in Pampa, and have put people living in the downstream reaches of river Pampa at alarming health risk and chances of heavy metal poisoning.