“The unscientific use of contaminated and heavy metal-laden ferrous chloride for direct river treatment in Njunangar stream leading to river Pampa on the foothills of Sabarimala, leads to accumulation and biological magnification of toxic chemicals in the food-chain affecting the entire population and other living organisms in the Pampa river basin,’’ says Dr. Thomas P. Thomas, academic and environmentalist.

Talking to The Hindu, Dr. Thomas who was also a member of the fact-finding team that had recently visited Njunangar alleged that there was every reason to suspect the direct river treatment proposed by the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (PCB) a ploy to dump the chemical waste of an Ernakulam-based private company in the serene Sabarimala forests.

In his statement published in The Hindu dated December 21, Mr. S.D. Jeyaprasad, PCB chairman, said the direct river treatment was started in 2007 in order to reduce the coliform count in the Njunagar stream. “However, he conveniently sidelines the fact that the river treatment using coagulants only helps in the settling of the suspended particles in the sewage and not effective in reducing the coliform count in the stream. The coliform count can be reduced only by disinfection process which is not practical in the Njunangar stream as chlorine may react with organic compounds in the sewage to form substances which may be carcinogenic,’’ says Dr. Thomas.

Heavy metals

“PCB chairman has admitted that the ferrous chloride supplied by a private company contained heavy metals like lead and cadmium and that most of it goes to the sludge and not into the overflow. He further says that 10 per cent of the heavy metals goes into the river, remaining silent about the other constituents like zinc, iron, nickel, chromium, manganese, etc,’’ alleged Dr. Thomas.

Biological process

Countering the PCB chairman’s statement that the biological process in STP takes 45 days for stabilization, Dr. Thomas says usually maintenance and other works at Sabarimala starts atleast two months before the beginning of the pilgrim season and hence 45 days is not a big period as far as the Travancore Devaswom Board is concerned.

According to Dr. Thomas, the PCB chairman’s statement that biological process takes time to adjust to variations in sewage generation rate is grossly unfounded. There will not be any shortage for sewage in Pampa on the foothills of Sabarimala, once the annual pilgrim season begins, says he.

In Chemical treatment the sludge generated can be toxic whereas in biological process, stabilisation is done using cow dung which is quite harmless. If chemical treatment is done at Sannidhanam, the transportation cost and cost of chemicals makes it considerably expensive and not at all environment-friendly.

Dr. Thomas alleged that the natural ecosystem and biodiversity of the forest would be badly affected by making Sabarimala forests a dumping place for the toxic sludge.

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