Medaram Jatara, one of the oldest tribal festivals in the country held in Telangana’s Mulugu district annually, is going plastic-free this year.
Over the next 10 days, nearly one crore people will attend the festival — also known as the Sammakka Sarlamma Jatara — with the crowd peaking on February 6 and 7 when the goddess is taken out in a procession.
As lakhs of pilgrims started converging from Friday at the Gattamma Temple — the entrance to the main tribal goddess temple in the forest in Eturnagaram Wildlife Sanctuary — an army of volunteers deployed by the Mulugu district administration has started collecting the single-use plastics they had. The collected plastic was also used to make a ‘plastic demon’ which was erected at the entrance with “say no to plastic” signs to create awareness among pilgrims.
The district administration has also erected check posts on all roads leading to Medaram, where plastic is collected from pilgrims and they are given cloth or jute bags instead.
Authorities have also asked people in villages to donate old clothes to tailors to make these bags. The tailors are being paid an honorarium by the village panchayat to make these bags.
“It is a lot of crowd management. Apart from ensuring pilgrims’ safety and convenience, we are trying to ensure that they do not carry any single-use plastic. We want to make this a totally plastic-free festival. While plastic is taken away from pilgrims at the check posts, if someone is found in possession of plastic near the forest, volunteers at the entrance will take it away. Throughout Mulugu district, we have announced through gram panchayats that plastic won’t be allowed at the jatara. We have tied up with ITC which will collect the plastic waste,” Mulugu District Collector (in-charge) R V Karnan said.
Over a thousand volunteers have been trained to collect single-use plastics from pilgrims. Over 150 vehicles, including tractors and autorickshaws, have been hired to collect and dispose the collected plastic safely. Collection centres have also been set up at waterfalls at Lankavara, Ramappa, Bhogatha, and Chintamam inside the wildlife sanctuary, which many pilgrims visit.
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