Moreover, pamphlets and vcds showing the importance of safeguarding the Sabarimala ecosystem were distributed to all pilgrims. Twenty specially trained eco-guards were posted to protect and clean the pathways. A plastic exchange counter was also set up at the base camp wherein people could deposit plastic bags and get cloth bags in return.
Additionally, 50 students from various higher secondary schools were tasked with requesting the pilgrims not to throw away their clothes into the river on a daily basis. Moreover, a signature campaign was launched this year to promote people’s participation in the endeavours of the district administration.
More than two lakh people promised not to throw away clothes into the river in the signature campaign. Assistant collector Sriram Venkataraman, who is in charge of the ‘Plastic Free Sabarimala’ and ‘Mission Green Sabarimala’ campaigns, said the signature campaign is one of the longest campaigns and is eligible for an entry into the Limca Book of Records.
Considering a shift from mere guidelines to strict enforcement, Venkataraman said, “From next year onwards, the district administration will adopt more stringent measures like imposing a fine on plastic bags and other wastes.”
“Since we cannot collect water bottles from the pilgrims like the plastic bags, a Reverse Osmosis (RO) plant was installed with the help of Kerala Water Authority at the base camp. With more of such ro plants on the trekking route, we could reduce the use of plastic bottles,” said Venkataraman.
He also said that the tdb also plans to install around 50 drinking water kiosks along the trekking route next season. He also said that efforts are being made by the district administration with the help of the tdb and other agencies to build more environment friendly comfort stations around the temple area in the coming season. “This way we would be able to stop the pilgrims from defecating in the open and also prevent the river from being polluted by human excreta,” said Venkataraman.
He also clarified that it is only through a continued effort that Sabarimala can be made pollution-free. To achieve this everyone — pilgrims, politicians and bureaucrats — has to take the initiative.