The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) has taken steps to enforce ban on plastic at Sabarimala, TDB president M. Rajagopalan Nair has said.

Talking to The Hindu, Mr. Nair said pilgrims had already been advised, through media, not to carry plastic carry bags or pet bottles to Sabarimala.

He said making pilgrims aware of the need to keep plastics away from the forest environs and keeping the pilgrimage centre clean and hygienic should be given top priority. One could feel the spirit of divinity by keeping the surroundings clean, he said.

Littering of plastic carry bags and pet bottles in the forests has been posing a serious threat to the environment as well as the wild fauna. The Kerala High Court had directed the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (PCB) to take necessary steps to restrict or prohibit the use of plastic at Sabarimala and surrounding areas during the pilgrim season.

Under Section-V of the Environment Protection Act, 1986, the PCB has issued a notification (dated 22-11-2010) banning ‘‘sale and use of plastic carry bags and dumping of plastic materials, including pet bottles, sachets or pouches, into water bodies and open areas in and around the Sannidhanam, Pampa, Chalakkayam, Nilackal and Erumely.''

The PCB notification further stated that ‘‘the TDB, the Police Department and local self-government institutions concerned shall ensure compliance of the ban order.''

The TDB chief said the board would explore the possibility of supplying carry bags made of cloth, paper and other eco-friendly materials to pilgrims through Devaswom counters.

Mr. Nair said the TDB was bound to ensure a smooth and trouble-free darshan to every pilgrim visiting Sabarimala. He sought the cooperation of pilgrims to keep the pilgrim centre clean, hygienic and plastic-free.

Queue complex

Mr. Nair said the rope way for transporting goods from Pampa to the Sannidhanam had become a dire necessity. Transportation of goods on donkey-back could have been stopped, once an alternative transportation system was put in place, he said.

Similarly, self-contained queue complex on the trekking path leading to the Sannidhanam was another prime requisite. He said the TDB as well as the high power committee for implementation of the Sabarimala master plan had decided to launch at least a few major projects at Sabarimala immediately after the culmination of the ongoing pilgrimage season.

He said the committee and the TDB were keen on executing various development projects at Sabarimala through sponsorships. Shifting of the Prasadom complex was another work to be implemented on a priority basis, he said.

Helicopter service

Mr. Nair said the TDB had found nothing wrong in permitting helicopter service to its base camp at Nilackal. Meanwhile, the Forest Department had raised certain queries regarding the proposed helicopter service between Nedumbasserry and Nilackal base camp.

He said the TDB would sign an agreement with Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) and a Bangalore-based private helicopter operator after clearing the objections raised by the Divisional Forest Officer in this regard.

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