Kerala wants no restrictions on Sabarimala pilgrimage



Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on Friday said there should not be any restrictions on pilgrimage to Lord Ayyappa temple situated at Sabarimala, which falls within Periyar Tiger Reserve.

Kerala was of the view that the pilgrimage would in no way harm the tiger habitat, Chandy said in a statement after a meeting with officials of State Forest and Devaswom Board.

He said the temple at Sabarimala was centuries old and pilgrimage to this temple had started years before this area was declared a tiger reserve.

"Sabarimala is in the buffer zone and not in the core area of the tiger reserve. The pilgrimage would in no way interfere with the habitat of tigers", he said.

The meeting was held against the background of Supreme Court directions to states to convey their response on the guidelines for conservation of tiger reserves in the country.

Kerala’s stand regarding the directions would be conveyed on October 1, he said. State Advocate General has been entrusted to submit declaration in this regard after consultation with the persons concerned.

Supreme Court was aware of all things related to Sabarimala and the master plan for the development of Sabarimala for the next 50 years has been prepared as per its direction, he pointed out.

The Centre allotted 12.67 hectares of forest land from tiger reserve for stepping up pilgrimage facilities at Sabarimala after due sanction from the apex court. The land was handed over by Centre for carrying out developmental activities.

Chandy said the state would be in a position to convince the apex court the reasons for not regulating the pilgrims to Sabarimala.

The Sabarimala master-plan had the approval of the Union Environment Ministry, Empowered Committee and National Wildlife Board.

Chandy said in 2003 Public Accounts Committee headed by Buta Singh had visited Sabarimala and criticised the Centre and State Governments for not providing basic facilities to pilgrims.The committee had also instructed to take necessary steps to provide facilities for pilgrims.

In 2004, the then UDF Government submitted memorandum to Prime Minister for acquiring forest land for developmental activities.

Stating that UDF government was committed to development of Sabarimala, Chandy said Rs 40 crore was spent for the masterplan so far. An amount of Rs.Five crore had been sanctioned for Zero Waste Project at Sabarimala, he said.

Queue complex and parking grounds were also constructed. New 'Aravana' plant and drinking water pipelines are under construction.

The directions of Justice Hariharan Nair Commission that probed the Pullumedu stampade tragedy that claimed the lives of 102 Ayyappa devotees in 2010 were being implemented, he pointed out.

PTI