Encouraged by the successful implementation of the ‘Punyam Poonkavanam’ project at the hill shrine of Sabarimala, the authorities are going ahead with this cleansing initiative for the second term in succession.

Punyam Poonkavanam (sacred forest grove) project is aimed at making the Sabarimala hill shrine garbage-free apart from keeping the Sannidhanam a clean and hygienic place of worship, P. Vijayan, Police Special Officer at Sannidhanam, said.

The project was implemented during the 2011 pilgrim season in order to create a new culture among the devotees to keep Sabarimala clean and neat. The objective is to preserve the forest area from depletion and protecting environment.

Vijayan, who is instrumental in launching the project, told Business Line that this year more organisations are coming forward to participate in the project voluntarily.

Besides devotees, shop owners, hoteliers, district administration and several others have shown interest in the project in order to ensure a better solid waste management system, he said.

Before the beginning of the current season, hundreds of volunteers from Mata Amritanandamayi Madhom under its project Amala Bharatam carried out cleaning of Sannidhanam and Pampa which has brought them accolades from all quarters including the Travancore Devaswom Board. It was also said to be carried out as part of the Punyam Poonkavanam project.

It is estimated that around 1.5 crore pilgrims visit the hill shrine during the two month festival season from November 16 to January 19. Even if each devotee generates 500 gm of waste, this would be of huge quantity. The waste includes plastic water bottles, plastic cover, food wastes, residues of pooja like ghee, rice grains, clothes etc.

Leaving behind considerable amount of wastes by the devotees’ right from Pampa to Sannidhanam is the main cause of defilement of the total area around the shrine, Vijayan said.

In a bid to alleviate this problem, he said this year each devotee trekking to the Sannidhanam is provided with a carry bag so as to enable the pilgrim to carry back the waste generated by him and dispose it outside the sacred forest.

“There is also a physiological aspect involved in the project. There will not be any inhibition for any person to touch and remove the waste generated by himself,” Vijayan said.