KOCHI: In a bid to ensure an eco-friendly pilgrimage for Ayyappa devotees and to assure the safety of wildlife, the Kerala High Court on Monday ordered a complete ban on the use of plastic in and around Sabarimala. The HC also banned the use of plastic in the Irumudikettu – the two-layered package in which pilgrims carry offerings for the deity.
A Division Bench comprising Justices P R Ramachandra Menon and Devan Ramachandran issued the order on a report filed by the Sabarimala special commissioner regarding the action needed to prevent the use of plastic.
The court had taken note of the alarming situation arising due to the indiscriminate disposal of plastic in the Sabarimala hills, which is located within the Periyar tiger reserve, and imposed a total ban on plastic bottles in 2015. The report stated that with the implementation of the order, plastic waste has been considerably reduced. But it was noticed that certain unnecessary items like rose water in plastic bottles and other articles wrapped in plastics were being brought by pilgrims in the Irumudikettu.
The HC ordered the authorities to ensure that the pilgrims did not carry items made of plastics in their Irumudikettu. The court noted that the combined efforts made by the Pollution Control Board, the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) and others were not sufficient to curb the plastic menace. Therefore, the court deemed it to order a complete ban on plastic in Sabarimala. It was the bounden duty of the TDB to ensure that traders in and around Sabarimala don’t violate the plastic ban.
The court ordered the TDB and others to create awareness about the plastic ban by publishing ads in newspapers. It is the obligation of every devotee to protect and preserve the holy shrine and its sanctity. A grassroots movement to eradicate plastic by educating and mobilising devotees is absolutely essential. Plastic causes harm to air, water, wildlife and flora and fauna. The need for urgency in combating this peril is most felt in and around the Sannidhanam, which is located in the buffer zone under the Periyar wildlife sanctuary.
Plastic waste is dangerous to the ecosystem and several studies suggested that dead bodies of more than 90 per cent of animals and birds contain plastic debris. The court pointed out the death of an elephant near Sabarimala after consuming plastic waste, including polythene carry bags. Wild boars and Samba deer are dying in a similar fashion. The HC said it will continue to monitor the efforts being adopted by the authorities as the earlier court orders in this regard were not implemented in their full spirit.
HC calls for awareness campaign
The High Court said that efforts to achieve the goal of making Sabarimala a plastic-free zone should be done in a sensitive manner without causing anxiety in the minds of the pilgrims. The authorities should start an awareness campaign before the start of the Mandalam-Makaravilakku season. It directed the Forest Department to file a statement regarding the details of how Rs 1 crore being made available to it every year for cleaning up the hills have been spent. It was asked to explain in which manner they intend to utilise the amount in the future.