Faith in spate
Legend has it that when Lord Ayyappa set out to seek solitude, he settled upon Sabarimala. Its sylvan surroundings and undulating terrain no doubt made it an ideal retreat. But if mythology and present-day reality were transposed, Sabarimala would no longer be the chosen abode of the hermit. Because now about 50 million devotees throng the forest temple for an annual pilgrimage, putting the fragile ecology of the region under severe stress. The problem is compounded by the authorities' perpetual lack of preparedness.
Located 467 metres above sea level, the Sabarimala temple is surrounded by 18 hills and situated in the Periyar Tiger Reserve in Kerala. With the pilgrimage getting underway on November 16, this year too hardly any lessons seem to have been learnt from the past. This despite the latest report of the state assembly's environmental sub-committee hinting at an impending environmental disaster.
The panel, headed by legislator George J Mathew, has made 32 proposals to protect Sabarimala. "But none of them are acceptable to the Travancore Devaswom Board (tdb), which administers the shrine. Its prime concern is grabbing forestland,' alleges A V Thamarakshan who headed the previous committee. The tdb, district authorities and health officials have, in fact, shown scant regard even for the stipulations laid down by the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (kspcb). "The menace posed by pollutants