Clean-up drive at holy Pamba River in Sabarimala: 27 tons of litter removed so far

Cleaning will happen every month; Includes awareness programme

Pure again Garbage removal

Pilgrim’s progress Around 900 volunteers have worked so far at the Pamba clean-up

Vishnu Manoharan &

Unnikrishnan Vijayan Pillai

Sabarimala: Around 900 people joined a project to clean the holy Pamba River in Sabarimala under the guidance and support of Art of Living. Many tons of waste and garbage were removed from the river. The garbage taken out was disposed of by SSS team (Sabarimala Sanitation Society) in collaboration with the police department.

Sabarimala pilgrims dump plastic, clothes and food materials into the river. While the whole river is littered with garbage, the starting point of the pilgrimage where devotees take a dip is the worst affected. The Pamba River clean up project has so far focused on that 500m stretch of the river.

Recently an elephant died in Periyar Tiger Reserve. The post-mortem revealed huge piles of waste in the body of the elephant, including polythene bags, aluminum foil and wrappers in her abdomen. Forest experts said the waste must have come from the litter that pilgrims leave behind during the two-month long Sabarimala season.

Initiative for revival of the Pamba River by art of living volunteers took place under the guidance of Vinod R Nayar, YLTP State Cordinator, Kerala. Started on April 13, the clean-up will be done every month in the presence of devotees so that awareness level is raised. Five phases have been completed.

First phase was taken up by 450 YLTP volunteers and involved eight hours continuous service starting with puja and ending with a satsang in which bhajans were sung. A Pamba Aarthi was also performed, says Sri Vava Suresh, Art of Living teacher of advance courses who inaugurated the programme.

He said that His Holiness Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar expressed his concern about the river to Kerala chief minister Oomen Chandy when he meet him recently. This inspired the clean-up project, says Suresh.

In the first phase, volunteers did a survey to see what sort of garbage had been dumped and arranged for cleaning equipment. The campaign started on the holy day of ‘Arattu’ ceremony, one of the prime concluding rituals of the annual festival at the Lord Ayyappa temple. Devaswam Dept provided food and accommodation for volunteers for three days.

On May 11 around 270 art of living volunteers again got together for the second phase of cleaning. “We formed groups of five plus members and started cleaning from different portions of the river,” said Venu Kailsam, a volunteer.

A volunteer Dr. Jecob says, “Litter-free holy rivers is a vision of His Holiness Gurudev Sri Sri Ravisankar. YLTP has taken up this vision.”

“We are really thankful to the AOL volunteers for their effort to clean up this mess. It was a hard reality the pilgrims considers Pamba a holy river but they are contaminating the river by dumping the materials. The cleaning process was an eye-opener for us,” said Manimaran, software engineer from Tamilnadu.

During the fourth and fifth phases of the cleaning, the monsoon had started. The river was swelling and the depth had increased. Volunteers braved the weather and went ahead with the cleaning.

A systematic approach was undertaken in the cleaning. The exact locations of waste disposal were mapped and cleaning was concentrated in those areas. This contributed to the success of the ongoing programme.

Vinod.R. Nair and Vava Suresh were present at Pamba for coordinating the volunteers and under their effective management the team served as a catalyst for social change.

Marthandan AOL volunteer and YLTP graduate, says “We are happy to be a part of the great movement. Thanks to Guruji for giving us a chance to be the instrument in implementing his vision.”

“An awareness programme has been started for pilgrims from Tamilnadu, Karnataka, Andhra and Kerala. The clean up project is itself an education for pilgrims who see volunteers at work,” says Sriprakash, Kerala State Executive Member of YLTP.