In 2012, an elephant in the Pathanamthitta district in the southern part of Kerala, died from ingestion of large amounts of waste from the Pamba River.
The incident was widely reported by the local media. Newspaper reports suggested that the waste ingested included clothing and plastic that was thrown into the river as part of a traditional ritual during an annual pilgrimage that involves throwing ones clothes into the river after taking a dip in it.
It was unnerving for most people, since the elephant is an integral part of the local culture, to learn of the tragic incident. It was perhaps a wake-up call that shook everyone up.
Every year around 30 million people trek up to pay respect to the Shrine of Lord Ayappa, popularly known as ‘Sabarimala.’ The shrine is located within the famous Periyar Tiger Reserve in Kerala, a protected reserve. Over the two-month pilgrimage period, huge amounts of plastic are disposed by visitors into the eco-sensitive forest. Authorities and the organisers of this pilgrimage took note and went about looking for partners and programmes that could help minimise and perhaps eliminate this waste.
In 2015, Hindustan
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According to Business Standard, in 2016, more than 200,000 people pledged their allegiance to cleanliness over tradition, stating "I won't throw clothes in the Pamba. I will dispose it with the waste."
Estimates available with the organisers suggested that there is early evidence of the waste dumped into river Pamba coming down. Good for a start but still too little to sit back and relax. Rivers are the lifeline of a community and there is plenty that needs to be done to save them from vanishing. May the Lord at Sabrimala help us save the environment.