Sowparnika no more a 'sacred' river

As we criticise about the extent to which the ‘sacred’ River Ganga is polluted in the North, perhaps, not many are aware of the river pollution in one of the famous religious destinations in our own Udupi district. 

The most renowned pilgrim center of South India, Kollur Mookambika temple is on the verge of losing its tag of clean and serene surroundings that it once possessed. The sewage that flows and garbage that is dumped on River Sowparnika which flows adjacent to the temple, stands testimony to this unpleasant change.

One of the longest running river in the district, Sowparnika, which is also considered as sacred as it flows adjacent to Mookambika temple, no more remains ‘sacred’ due to sewage and seepage that has polluted its subsidiary river ‘Agnitheertha.’

The foul smell and garbage dumped on Agnitheertha has converted the river into nothing less than a dump yard. Effluent of more than 50 guest houses and lodges in the temple surroundings are released to the river which runs up to 50 kms till Gangolli. The area is maligned with the breeding of germs and insects. One can find the movement of germs and worms in place of fishes that are generally seen in the river. Former trustee of the temple Gowri Devadiga said it is awful that people use the same water for consumption.

The area in front of the temple, where Agnitheertha flows has become a public nuisance, as the devotees are forced to close their nose due to stench emanating from the river. The river is filled with plastic bottles and bags, making one pity at the plight of the river.

 Besides, sewage from the guest houses and lodges has added to the woes. Seven guest houses belonging to the temple also discharge the effluents to the river basin.Kodachadri Parisara Samrakshana Trust President K K Sabu said despite taking up several fights demanding to maintain cleanliness, authorities have not responded positively. Dignitaries right from President to the Governor come here, receive VIP treatments, blessings of the Goddess and pledge assurances of providing a clean surrounding, which is merely a lip service.

Breaking tradition

For the first time in the history of the temple in Kollur, the temple administration had to go against the age old tradition during the ritual of ‘Teppothsava’ and ‘Jalakreede’ wherein the ‘Utsava Murthy’ of the Goddess is taken for the annual ritual usually held on March 24 and 25. 

The temple authorities who were left with no other option, had to shift the place of performing the ritual to some distant area, due to the river pollution. The idol of the Goddess could not be dipped in the river, due to the garbage accumulated in the river.  There is another water spring ‘Kashitheertha’ flowing from the foothills of Kodachadri that joins ‘Agnitheertha’ at the ‘Sangam’ area to merge with River Sowparnika, which is crystal clear as it is not polluted. One can see the clear demarcation in the river joining point, black seepage water from Agnitheertha merges with crystal clear water from ‘Kashitheertha.’

Esha Vitala Swamiji of Kemaru mutt has taken up the ‘Save Sowparnika River’ campaign with the local supporters demanding for the proper underground drainage system in the area. Speaking to media persons, the seer said that he is trying to communicate with the administration through media and he has also submitted the memorandum to Deputy Commissioner Dr M T Reju and also temple CEO Maruthi L S. 

He said the fight is in the initial phase. It will be intensified, if the officials concerned fail to respond. He lamented that the Sowparnika river accommodates 64 varieties of medicinal plants and is considered as eco-sensitive area. Measures should also be taken to construct toilets, he stressed.

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