Radhakrishnan Kuttoor

Directive to TDB not to pump sludge into Periyar Tiger Reserve

SABARIMALA: The Forest Department has directed the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) not to dispose of the sludge generated in the direct chemical treatment of Njunangar, a tributary of river Pampa, into the ecologically-sensitive Sabarimala forests that forms part of the Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR).

The TDB had started chemical treatment of the Njunangar on the directions of the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (PCB) a week ago.

The chemical treatment of the natural water source using ferrous chloride-titania mixture had invited protests from experts as well as environmental organisations.

They said the chemical treatment would lead to contamination of the river water with hazardous heavy metals. However, the PCB authorities had clarified that a major portion of the heavy metals go into the sludge, releasing only the treated water into river Pampa.

Environmentalists said that leaving the sludge on the riverbed itself and pumping it into pits in the forests on the river banks would ultimately lead to its flow into the water source with rainwater.

The Forest Department had issued a notice to the TDB not to pump the sludge into the forests attached to the PTR, as it might harm the wildlife as well as the vegetation.

Meanwhile, the TDB had decided to dig pits in the forest land allotted to it for the Sabarimala development for pumping the sludge.

Coliform count

According to official sources, the quality of river water had deteriorated, despite the direct chemical treatment of Njunangar during the past one week.The PCB investigation team at Pampa had observed that the coliform count in the downstream side of the river treatment at Pampa stood at 1,14,000 for every 100 ml of water on January 9 and 98,000 on January 7.

Experts said the PCB analysis itself showed that the chemical treatment had little impact in reducing the coliform count and pollution abatement of the Pampa. They said the people living in the downstream reaches of the Pampa were still at alarming health risk with chances of heavy metal poisoning.