Curbs on chemical powders for Pettah Thullal

With blanket ban not yielding results, authorities plan to raid shops stocking toxic powders

With their attempts to impose a blanket ban on toxic chemical powders in the Pettah Thullal ritual proving futile, the authorities are trying to confiscate the material stocked at the seasonal shops in Erumeli this Sabarimala season.

The move comes in the wake of a directive issued by the Principal Secretary on December 11 to the stakeholder agencies, including the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) Commissioner as well as the Kottayam District Collector, to enforce the ban strictly.

Hazardous metals

A recent study by the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (PCB) has pointed to the presence of hazardous heavy metals, including lead, arsenic and cadmium, in this powder. Besides causing skin ailments, it also pollutes the soil and is washed down into waterbodies.

According to District Collector P.K. Sudheer Babu, reports on the impact of these materials in and around the waterbodies of the region have been under consideration of a Green Tribunal Bench. Since the ban on the powders could not be effectively implemented in the face of non-cooperation from traders, he said joint teams of revenue and PCB officials would conduct raids and take action, including suspension of trading licences.

Organic options

“The seasonal shops under the TDB and the local body have been leased out with a condition not to sell such chemical powders. Though they violated the condition, we have practical difficulties in acting tough as the season has reached its peak. Our focus will now be on promoting organic alternatives,” he said.

According to the PCB , the brightly coloured powder used for the Pettah Thullal are primarily chemical dyes. “They are discharged into the Valiyathodu in Erumeli and end up in the Manimalayar river,” an official said.

300 shops in business

While the exact volume of the chemical powder sold here during the season is yet to be assessed, around 300 shops carry out the business every season. As per estimates, over 20,000 pilgrims bound for Sabarimala pass through the town daily during the two-month season.

Though the High Court had earlier issued an order regulating the use of chemical powders in Erumeli, it could not be implemented due to the shortage of organic alternatives. The plans by the authorities to promote organic powders manufactured by the Telangana State Agricultural University too failed in view of the price differences.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 10:38:10 PM |

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