and Conservation of the Agasthyamalai region, Western Ghats, India.
In 2006, ATREE and the Tamil Nadu Forest Department launched a clean-KMTR campaign. The following year, we negotiated for an official ban of plastic in the reserve. This year, we moved to a more holistic approach; ‘be a better ancestor’ urging the pilgrims to be responsible and enjoy a greener festival. Some of our monitoring efforts by volunteers helped shift the attention of the press from the grandeur of the festival to the impacts that such festivals have on the environment. We are also seeing more local stewardship emerging to safeguard our environment, but the issue of how we reconcile this festival which is an age old tradition, with the issue of conservation remains.
As I write this editorial, the news of Sabarimala stampede is breaking, with reports of heavy loss of life. Sabrimala which has its setting in Periyar Tiger reserve, is similar to Sorimuthaiyan in many ways. In contrast, Sabarimala has a wider footprint, with people pouring from several states while the Sorimuthaian temple is fortunately still restricted to 2 districts. There is a value of keeping this festival small and maintaining its quaintness. We see an opportunity for the temple administration to set a trend by setting up an environment committee and bring more players from line departments and the civil society to manage the festival. Raja, the temple trustee was open to this suggestion, and we hope to see this happen in this year!