Pathanamthitta: Access into Kerala's Sabarimala for menstruating women seems like a meagre issue in contrast to the colossal task gawking at the Devaswom Board before the ‘mandalam’ season that begins on November 17. 

A report was handed over to the chief secretary, Tom Jose by the Pollution Control Board (PCB), which stated that the toilet and sewage facilities are inadequate at Nilakkal and Pamba and that the existing ones have been ravaged by the cataclysm in August. The PCB report warns that if immediate action is not taken, the pilgrims will be forced to defecate in open. The capacity of the waste collection tanks has been interposed by the rubble that has been accumulated during the flood, which will result in the spill out of sewage into open. 

K Sajeevan, the state PCB chairman stated, “We expect a devotee flow of at least 100 an hour to Nilakkal. If toilet and sewerage facilities are not in place, things can go out of control.” The Devaswom Board has assured the installation of 250 fabricated toilets and bathrooms before the season begins at Nilakkal next month. But the report stresses on the point that mere installation of toilets was not enough and that the capacity of sewage collection tanks also has been compromised. 

Therefore two solutions have been recommended by the PCB

• Build up the capacity of the collection tanks by clearing the debris accumulated due to the floods. 

• Install a pre-assembled sewage treatment plant to process the wastes from temporary toilets to be set up this season on an emergency basis. 

Wild elephants and garlands

The garlands devotees carry to adorn Lord Ayyappa will be disposed of at Nilakkal at the end of the day. The garlands and flowers that bedeck pilgrim vehicles, especially the ones from outside Kerala too will be dumped in wilted condition at Nilakkal, said the PCB chairman. 

The simple flower garland is the next step. The PCB report stated that the practice of discarding garlands should be banned at Nilakkal.  These garlands, other than plastics are biodegradable, but the problem is the scent, which would attract the wild elephants to Nilakkal . The chairman also stated that it would prevent the workers from operating the boilers installed at Nilakkal. 

The report has also recommended the installation of bio-composter at Nilakkal as it is a fact that there exists no mechanism to process the waste. The PCB also recommended coloured bins for disposing of waste as plastic and non-plastic. The report also stated that the tractors that carry the waste should also maintain the same system. 

The threat of defecation in open is soaring at Pamba as two of the five toilet blocks have been destroyed completely by the floods. 120 out of the 480 are unfit for use. The other three blocks are also awash with mud and slush, but still can be revived. The report stressed that if the toilets are not made ready for use, and new ones are not put up on a temporary basis, open defecation would increase at Manappuram.

The five collection tanks at Pamba too are accumulated with debris due to recent floods and can only be renewed if the same is removed. The pipelines from the toilets to the accumulation tanks and the waste pipe from the collection centres to the sewerage treatment plants at Cheriyanavattom have been completely ruined. Every one of them must be re-laid. The pumps, aerator, agitator and panel board of the sewerage treatment plants have also been rendered dysfunctional by the flood.