KOCHI: In an eco-friendly gesture, Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) and Aluva municipal authorities have decided to organize Shivaratri festival in a green way. The organizers of the festival have already taken measures to avoid the use of plastic as much as possible.

There would be total ban on bottled drinking water at Shivaratri Manappuram. “While auctioning the stalls to be opened as part of the festival and the carnival, we have given strict instructions to the shop owners to avoid use of plastic. We have banned the bottled water in Manappuram during the festival days,” said Harindranath V, deputy devaswom commissioner, TDB. “We will be starting a campaign for making the event a green one. We will be supplying free drinking water to all the devotees on Shivaratri. For the purpose, we will be setting up outlets at six or seven points at Manappuram,” he said. “It is for the first time we introduced such a system and so it is an experiment. We expect that it would succeed,” he said.

The Devawsom had spent Rs 20 lakh on constructing roofed stalls and Bali Tharas (the venue for offering Bali Tharpanam). “Until now, Bali Tharas and stalls had been constructed using tarpaulin or plastic sheets. This time, we constructed roofed stalls and Bali tharas.

Moreover, plastic carry bags and such objects would not be allowed in Bali Tharas. We will be supplying cotton bags for the use of devotees and priests,” Hareendranath said. ” We have also given instruction that only plantain leaves (not plastic coated papers) should be used for Tharpanam,” he said.

Aluva municipal authorities also have taken measures to ensure a festival free of plastic. ” We have taken steps to see that the festival this time is celebrated following green protocol as much as possible. There would be adequate labourers for cleaning the area round-the-clock,” an official with Aluva municipality said.

Environmentalists welcomed the move of Devaswom and municipal authorities to conduct the festival in an environment friendly way. “At the same time, they should minimize dumping of waste in to the river. The waste from Bali tharas after performing the ritual is being dumped in the river,” said S Sitaraman, environmentalist. “More toilets should be provided for the devotees and the public so as to avoid open defecation,” he said.

TDB authorities informed that they would be erecting nets across the river downstream. “Then, the waste like plantain leaves etc which are dumped in to the river can be collected from the downstream. We will be collecting such waste without allowing them to decay,” a TDB official said.

“We have already removed the pieces of bones which are immersed in the river as part of last rights to the departed souls,” he said. The devaswom board would be setting up its own Balitharpan Mandaps for arranging facilities for the devotees and ensuring uniformity in rates charged by the priests. Those remitting a fee of Rs 50 can offer Balitharpan at TDB’s mandap. There will be three mandaps where 100 persons each can offer rituals at a time.