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Work on Pampa Action Plan schemes begins

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WORK IN PROGRESS: Work on a vented crossbar progressing in the downstream of Aratkadavu in the Pampa on the foothills of Sabarimala on Tuesday.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Work on a vented crossbar progressing in the downstream of Aratkadavu in the Pampa on the foothills of Sabarimala on Tuesday.

Radhakrishnan Kuttoor

TDB, KWA yet to make headway in implementing projects

PATHANAMTHITTA: Amidst apprehensions of the State losing the Rs.12.92-crore Central allocation for the first phase of the much-awaited Pampa Action Plan (PAP), the Major Irrigation Department has started work on three vented crossbars (VCB) in the Pampa and Kakkattar rivers on the foothills of Sabarimala.

However, various major pollution abatement components in PAP, which include two sewage treatment plants, incinerators, toilet complexes and drainages, remain unattended by the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) that has been identified as the implementing agency of the plan in its first phase in Sabarimala.

There were also reports that the Central fund for the first phase of PAP had almost lapsed allegedly owing to the indifference on the part of the TDB and the State Government in utilising it in a time-bound manner.

The Kerala Water Authority (KWA) which is to undertake a modern drinking water treatment plant project at Sabarimala as part of PAP too appeared to have made few efforts to realise it.

Irrigation schemes

The ongoing work on three PAP schemes undertaken by the Major Irrigation Department on the foothills of Sabarimala has much significance. Two VCBs are located in the Pampa, one at Pandarakkayam in the upstream of the KWA's pumping station at Pampa-Triveni and the other in the downstream of the Aratkadavu. The third VCB is coming up in the downstream of Sreeramapadom in the Kakkattar.

The department will also undertake a 1,500-m-long seasonal fencing project along the river banks at Pampa with a view to checking excessive human intervention in the upstream reaches of the river during the annual pilgrim season, said Assistant Engineer Binu Baby.

The three VCBs and the fencing project were expected to cost Rs.140 lakh, said Assistant Executive Engineer Stephen Thomas.

The VCBs were aimed flushing out filth from the Pampa bathing ghats by periodically releasing water from the reservoirs in the upstream areas, he said.

The Pampa is the first river system from the State to be included in the National River Conservation Project (NRCP). Environmentalists fear the Government's failure to implement even the first phase of PAP in a time-bound manner would lead to some sort of `blacklisting' of the State for various Centrally-sponsored river conservation programmes in future.

The Union Ministry of Forests and Environment had sanctioned the Central share of Rs.12.92 crore on May 3, 2003 for implementing various pollution abatement schemes in the Pampa in a prescribed timeframe of four years beginning 2003-'04.

Though the National River Conservation Directorate (NRCD) was supposed to clear the fund only after getting the detailed project report with firmed-up cost estimate of various sub-components of different schemes, the Union Ministry had cleared the fund, overlooking even the prevailing norms, in view of the gravity of the pollution problems facing Sabarimala.

Meanwhile, Major Irrigation Department engineers said the work on the three VCBs would be completed in two weeks.

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