‘Water drawn from tank where Athi Varadar is immersed not pure’

The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) on Monday told the Madras High Court that water samples drawn from Athi Varadar Mandapam, situated in the Kancheepuram Devarajaswamy temple tank, on August 14 contained total coliform bacteria of 3,500 MPN (most probable number)/100 ml and faecal coliform of 940 MPN/100 ml.

In an affidavit filed before Justice P.D. Audikesavalu, who was seized of a writ petition to clean the tank, the TNPCB said the lab test results also revealed that water drawn with the help of electric motors from the 24-foot deep Anantasaras while taking out the more than 600 kg idol for worship on June 30, and shifted to the nearby Portramarai Kulam, contained coliform of 2,400 MPN/100 ml and faecal coliform of 700 MPN/100 ml.

According to the affidavit signed by Kacheepuram District Environmental Engineer G. Ramaraj, the presence of coliform in the samples drawn from the mandapam was much higher than less than 50MPN/100 ml suggested for drinking water source without conventional treatment but after disinfection. He said even for outdoor bathing, the desirable presence of faecal coliform in water was only 500MPN/100ml though the maximum permissible limit was 2,500 MPN/100ml.

Therefore, it was concluded that the water available in both the tanks before the immersion of Athi Varadar on Saturday was not completely pure as feared by the High Court. Though the judge had ordered conduct of tests on August 14, it took time for the lab results to come out.

In the meantime, the idol was placed back in the underground chamber after the 48-day (one Mandalam) darshan period for which it was taken out.

After the submission of TNPCB’s affidavit, the HRCE Department told the court that so far they had used only rainwater to fill the Athi Varadar Mandapam as well as Anatasaras, since it started raining immediately after the immersion.

Expecting more rain in the course of this week, the department and the temple management sought some time to see if the entire tank could be filled only with rainwater, a very pure source.

If there was any shortage, it could be met with groundwater drawn from borewells on the temple premises since the TNPCB had tested samples from the borewells and found that they did not contain any coliform bacteria, the court was told.

However, in its affidavit, TNPCB stated that even if Anantasaras was filled with pure water, the temple authorities should devise a mechanism to keep it free from pollutants for all time to come.

After recording the submission, the judge directed the HR CE Department to file a report by Thursday outlining the plan to keep the water pure and clean till 2059 when the idol would be taken out from the tank next for darshan.

Since the idol, fastened underwater with ancient snake-shaped stone locks, had to be safeguarded for eternity without any damage, he insisted that some effective measures be taken to ensure the quality of the water.

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