Kerala

Polluted flows the Valiyathodu

Sabarimala Pilgrims taking bath in the Erumeli Valiyathodu, which runs close by the Erumeli Sree Dharma Sastha temple

Sabarimala Pilgrims taking bath in the Erumeli Valiyathodu, which runs close by the Erumeli Sree Dharma Sastha temple  

PCB analysis finds faecal coliform count above permissible level

Taking a dip in the Valiyathodu, a stream that runs through Erumely, is infused with the spiritual tradition of the temple town, which hosts lakhs of Sabarimala pilgrims every year.

However, bathing in the waterbody could expose people to faecal coliform, which is several times over the permissible level (500 units).

The issue, attributed to the discharge of partially treated sewage from the toilet complexes here, has also triggered concerns of a health crisis in the region.

As per a water analysis report prepared by the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (PCB), the faecal coliform bacteria count in the bathing ghat at Valiyathodu was 5,000 units as on November 23.

This volume, according to officials, has now increased manifold over the last two weeks with the continuing discharge of waste.

Report submitted

The PCB has submitted a report to its member-secretary and the Kottayam District Collector proposing action, including environment compensation cost, against the Travancore Devaswom Board for polluting the waterbody. “Under-treated waste from the STPs run by the TDB is being discharged into the Valiyathodu, a tributary of the Manimala river, under the cover of night. Besides posing health risk to those bathing in it, it also enters the human body as the river serves as a drinking water source for people in Kottayam, Pathanamthitta and Alappuzha districts,” pointed out a senior PCB official.

Inspections by the PCB also revealed that a few other toilet complexes, including the one under the Erumely Jamaat, too were functioning without STPs.

District Collector P.K. Sudheer Babu said a show cause notice had been issued to the TDB based on the PCB report.

Allegation denied

“The TDB has denied the allegation. The issue, however, has been brought to the attention of the State government and the TDB has been directed to submit a detailed explanation,” he said.

The Erumely panchayat, meanwhile, confirmed the faecal discharge into the river and said a stop memo was issued to the TDB toilet complex last week.

“There is nothing much we can do about in the present season except for initiating such temporary action. However, the issue has been brought to the notice of the Devaswom Minister, who directed the TDB to establish modern STPs ahead of the next season,” said Krishna Kumar, Erumely grama panchayat president.

Besides the faecal sludge, huge volumes of chemical-based colour powder used for the Pettah Thullal ceremony is also washing down to the stream.

A proposal by the authorities to ban the material and promote its organic variety has fallen flat in the face of non-cooperation by traders.

As per the PCB, over 20,000 pilgrims visit the town daily during the two-month annual pilgrim season.

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 12:23:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/polluted-flows-the-valiyathodu/article30280106.ece

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