Sabarimala waste, power management threatens Periyar Tiger Reserve: CAG

An audit report blames Travancore Devaswom Board and the state electricity board for not setting up compositing and drainage facilities or laying electric lines underground

By Himanshu Upadhyaya
Published: Wednesday 13 February 2019
Sabarimala Temple
Image: Getty Images Image: Getty Images

The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), an autonomous body that manages 1,248 temples including the Sabarimala Ayappa Temple, has been violating the Master Plan for Sabarimala for over a decade. This is affecting the ecology of the Periyar Tiger Reserve, says a recently tabled report by Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India.

The CAG’s performance report on the implementation of Wildlife Protection Act in Kerala says that impact of Sabarimala pilgrimage ranked first in the list of 18 major threats identified by Periyar Tiger Reserve authorities in Tiger Conservation Plan (TCP). The auditors have also underlined that “growing demand of TDB for additional land for infrastructure development at Sabarimala led to habitat degradation”.

CAG auditors pointed out the following deviations and violations:

  • TDB has failed to set up a composting facility at Pampa in line with the Solid Waste Management Guidelines of the Master Plan for Sabarilmala (May 2007), and yet the Forests and Wildlife Department did not take any action against this non-compliance by TDB.
  • During their inspection in July 2017, the audit team observed that while there are two sewage treatment plants at Pampa and Sannidhanam, no drainage facility to convey waste water from hotels to the Pampa STP was provided. Similarly, auditors noticed that at Sannidhanam, the sewage pipes from the buildings near Kumbalamthodu stream to the STP were left unconnected. These missing links meant that the overflowing waste water got mixed up with the waters flowing in Kumbalamthodu stream, which in turn polluted the river Pampa.
  • CAG auditors also drew attention to the deviation with regard to power transmission lines stating that while the master plan envisioned these electric lines to be laid down underground, Kerala State Electricity Board had shown no action and overhead cables without insulation may prove out to be threat to certain wildlife species.

In its reply filed in March 2018, the Kerala government accepted the audit observations and stated that utmost importance of establishing composting facility at Pampa would be brought up to the attention of the high powered committee. The government also spoke about asking TDB to take urgent measures to improve drainage system connected to STPs at Pampa and Sannidanam. The matter regarding non-insulated overhead cables existing in the traditional trek route was brought to the notice of the KSEB, said the state government.

While filing its reply, the state government should have made high-powered committee in charge of monitoring the Tiger Conservation Plan, and made TDB and KSEB own up the inaction and tell the CAG about what they plan to do to rectify these violations, says the auditing agency.

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