Pilgrims continue to discard clothes in stream in Vellingiri hills near Coimbatore

Updated - May 17, 2024 03:27 pm IST

Published - May 16, 2024 07:58 pm IST - COIMBATORE

Devotees, who trekked the hills recently, said the stream and places around it have been polluted with discarded clothes.

Devotees, who trekked the hills recently, said the stream and places around it have been polluted with discarded clothes. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Andisunai, a pristine stream at the sixth hill of the Vellingiri hills near Coimbatore, has turned into a dumping site as trekkers discard their used clothes after taking bath in the ongoing pilgrimage season.

Devotees, who trekked the hills recently, said the stream and places around it have been polluted with discarded clothes.

“Many pilgrims were found leaving their used clothes in the stream itself after taking bath. When the stream bed is full of clothes, pilgrims who come next move them to the side where they have been piled up,” said a Coimbatore native, who trekked the hills a few days ago.

D. Senthilkumar of Velandipalayam, a devotee, said dumping clothes at the stream after taking a bath is a non-customary practice. It started over the years and measures should be implemented to curb it, he said.

Along the 6.5 km trekking route from the Vellingiri Andavar temple at Poondi to the summit at the seventh hill, volunteers have placed notices appealing to the trekkers not to pollute the hills.

A notice appealing trekkers not to pollute the Vellingiri Hills

A notice appealing trekkers not to pollute the Vellingiri Hills | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Andisunai is one of the important streams in the Vellingiri hills, which is known for its rich biodiversity and is a part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. The place comprising six contiguous hills falls under the Boluvampatty forest range and is home to key species such as elephant, tiger, leopard, king cobra, rare birds, insects and a large variety of flora.

“Vellingiri hills is an ecologically fragile area, where steps should be taken by the authorities to control the inflow of people and impose strict conditions. Other activities, including stalls along the trekking routes, should also be banned. Like the carrying capacity of important hill stations were considered to impose restrictions on tourists, measures should be taken to ensure responsible pilgrimage,” said K. Kalidasan of ‘Osai’ environmental organisation.

He also wanted the number of days allotted for trekking in the hills to be reduced. As per an order issued by the Madras High Court, pilgrims can trek Vellingiri hills from February to May every year.

While the Forest Department has been able to prevent the dumping of plastic materials along the trekking route to a large extent, it could not prevent dumping of clothes. Shortage of staff also poses a challenge to the department in preventing trekkers from dumping clothes in Andisunai.

At the downhill, Forest Department staff affixes stickers on water bottles, for which a refundable fee is collected. The amount is refunded when the pilgrims produce the bottles when they return.

District Forest Officer N. Jayaraj said the department, with help of volunteers, removes the discarded clothes once in two weeks, after drying them. Remaining clothes will also be removed soon, he said..

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