Pollution level high in temple tanks in Kanyakumari

Tanks are integral part of temples and devotees believe a dip in these holy waterbodies will absolve them of their sins. Urbanisation, poor maintenance, blocked inlets and outlets and lull in paddy cultivation have rendered these tanks highly polluted and unfit for human use.

A study on pollution levels in major temple tanks in Kanyakumari district has concluded that most of the physio-chemical parameters crossed the maximum permissible limits prescribed by the WHO.

“The total alkalinity, electrical conductivity, chloride, total dissolved solids, calcium and magnesium have higher values and make the ponds very harmful for human beings,” said P. Maria Pushpam in her doctoral thesis submitted to Centre for Marine Science and Technology of the Manonmaniam Sundaranar University Rajakkamangalam in Kanyakumari district.

While she has attributed the situation to washing, bathing, climatic changes and blockage of inlets and outlets, Umayorubhgan, who was her guide, said fall in agriculture, especially paddy cultivation, is the root cause of the problem. All the temple tanks that have inlets carrying water from irrigation canals have fallen into disrepair. Similarly, outlets, after years of neglect, have become derelict.

“We are not getting fresh water into temple tanks because in many areas paddy cultivation has been stopped. Farmers’ bodies (puravu committees) that regularly maintain irrigation canals are no longer interested in these activities . Temple tanks today contain just stagnant water with high level of dissolved salts,” said Dr. Umayorubhagan.

In fact, many tanks, particularly the tank in Parakkai, have underground pipes bringing water from far away places with openings at various places to clean the blockages.

Now these pipes are beyond repair and no one can locate the openings. Construction of sewage systems in panchayats and discharge of untreated sewage into waterbodies meant for irrigation also severely polluted temple tanks as they are interlinked.