THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A comprehensive study on the mass gathering at Sabarimala, a first-of-its-kind multi-dimensional study on the health and ecological fallout of mass gathering at a religious place, has called for an effective Mass Gathering and Safe Pilgrimage Policy in the state.
With multiple entry points to the hill shrine making it difficult to monitor the crowd and pilgrims’ behaviour/practices, the study conducted by Santhigiri Social Research Institute and the Global Health Institute of Public Health with the support of Indian Council of Medical Research(ICMR) says a multi-sectoral approach is needed to monitor the mass gathering.
Apart from this, the study titled ‘Mass Gathering, Health Domains and Health System Responsiveness: A Study of Sabarimala Pilgrimage in Kerala’ reveals a large number of pilgrims are a potential risk for the transmission of infectious diseases among pilgrims and the local population.Though there were as many as 21 health centres catering to the health needs of pilgrims, it said more facilities are needed at these centres. Noting facility for cardiac treatment is the most essential, the study suggests developing a cardiac kit which could be handled by paramedical staff/volunteers. It also proposes one or two cardiac intensive care units along the route. As the devotees gather in their several thousands at the base of the holy steps leading up to the sanctum sanctorum, the study highlights the need to deploy paramedics who could handle breathlessness and cardiac problems here along with police personnel.
Global Institute of Public Health’s Muhammed shaffi said this was the first multi-dimensional study to focus on health, environmental and socio-cultural issues. He also said it is high time everyone develops awareness about the impact of health and ecological impact of mass gatherings.
The need to create awareness among pilgrims to undergo medical check-up in their native places before they embark on the pilgrimage has been underscored by the study. As of now, less than one-fifth of the pilgrims have undergone a check up within a month of setting off for the pilgrimage.
Muscular pain and breathlessness are two of the major issues confronting the pilgrims. However, most of the pilgrims are seen managing these through self-medication. The government should consider deploying paramedics or volunteers trained in physiotherapy.
The study has asked the government to provide rest areas on the way to the hill shrine and make available oxygen cylinders and pain balms on more routes. Regarding the quality of potable water which is of vital importance with regard to health issues, the study found water samples from Nunnangar and Pamba Kulikadavu had a total coliform count of seven lakh per litre and 6.4 lakh per litre, respectively.
Santhigiri Social Research Institute chief fellow and principal investigator K Rajasekharan Nayar, K Mohandas and Shaffi led the study. It was also found the Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD), a measure of water and waste water quality, was the highest at Nunnangar (30mg/l), Kulikkadavu (24.5 mg/L). The Total Suspended Solids was also seen at a higher level in these places.