Campaign against use of plastic articles has been stepped up in and around the hill shrine of Sabarimala where devotees are thronging since the two-month long pilgrimage began five days back.
Use of plastic articles of less than 30 micron had been banned in the hill shrine through an an order of the Kerala High Court since non-bio degradable material could grievously harm the fragile eco system of the Periyar Tiger Reserves, where the Ayyappa temple is located.
The temple administration Trvancore Devaswom Board (TDB), Wildlife Department and NGOs are making combined efforts to discourage the use of plastic bags, cups and bottles by pilgrims coming to the shrine.
State Forest Minister Benoy Viswam was in Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad before the start of the pilgrim season as part of the campaign to keep the forest shrine clean since devotees from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka formed over 50 per cent of devotees visiting the temple annually.
“We are not just confining to what has been specified in the ban order. We have been appealing to devotees not to throw around such things as toilet soap wrappers, biscuit packets and shampoo bottles”, a temple official said.
“If use of plastic is avoided, a major pollution problem caused by such a huge pilgrimage like this could be reduced to a great extent”, he said.
Over 30 million devotees from different parts of the country and even abroad visit Sabarimala during the pilgrim season lasting till mid-January.
The holy river Pampa on the foothills of the Sabarimala gets clogged for several weeks as result of non-degradable articles thrown into into by the pilgrims after taking dip or resting in transit camps.
Wildlife Department have often complained that the plastic food wrappers often thrown around are eaten by animals causing serious intestinal problems to them leading to even their death.
The NGOs like Ayyappa Seva Sanghom, however, hold that the anti-plastic campaigners should also keep an eye on traders selling water, food and other essential items in plastic bottles or wrappers.
” Our experience has been that the devotees are willing to co-operate once they are convinced of the problem. But it is the traders who often breach the rules as they are ruled by commercial motives,” a sanitation volunteer at Pampa said.