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Effluent discharge into Noyal river -- Erode farmers complain against Tirupur units

G. Gurumurthy

The farmers in the region had approached the district authorities seeking compensation for the crop loss suffered on account of the contaminated ground water.

COIMBATORE, March 22

THE discharge of effluents by dyeing and bleaching units processing knitted garments in Tirupur has upset farmers of the Noyal river belt downstream in Erode district.

The farmers have approached the Erode district authorities in recent weeks, complaining of ground water contamination in the fields on either side of the Orathupalam check-dam, built across the Noyal river, on account of the settling of unrecovered chemicals/salts from the hosiery effluents released into the dam.

Complaints of the discharge of untreated effluents and the resultant contamination of ground water in farm wells has come to a head for the Tirupur knitwear processing industry, as the affected farmers have kept up the pressure on the State Government authorities in Erode district. They are seeking prompt action to check the pollution caused by the Tirupur-based dyeing units.

The Erode district administration has asked the State Pollution Control Board (PCB) officials to assess the level of effluent seepage in the ground water in specific villages situated along the Noyal river, which fall under Perundurai and Kangeyam taluks. The decision follows a meeting of farmers' representatives, members of the Tirupur dyeing and bleaching units, and PCB officials at Erode on March 7, it is learnt. The Erode district administration, it was said, is also looking at assessing the economic loss suffered by the farmers in the district on account of ground water contamination caused by the effluent discharge.

The rising salinity of the ground water in the farm wells along the Noyal river tract has remained a thorny issue for the Government and the PCB officials in the region.

Officials at the PCB in Tirupur, who have been asked to prepare a status report on the level of effluent discharge in the ground water source of villages proximate to the Orathupalam dam, confirmed that work on assessing the effluent damage caused in the villages lying on the northern and southern banks of Orathupalam dam had already been taken up. The board officials had taken pollution tests in Kodumanal, Serathupalam and S. Kathanganni villages in the last few days and similar tests would be conducted in other villages soon.The board officials have also prepared a preliminary report on the status of the effluent treatment operations at the eight common effluent treatment plants (CETPs) and over 400 independent effluent treatment plants set up in different parts of Tirupur.

"A major complaint of farmers in this area is that the Tirupur dyeing units have not acted to control the levels of totally dissolved solids (TDS) as well as the removal of salts discharged in the effluents over the years.

The farmers of the Orathupalam area have been witness to a widening curve of salinity in their underground water sources.

"Our drinking water source as well as irrigation water availability have been seriously threatened,'' said Mr Ramaswamy Gounder of Orathupalam lamented. Mr Gounder told Business Line over the phone that the band of effluent seepage in the ground water in the villages around Orathupalam had been widening, and in some areas had gone up from one km from the riverbank up to 2- to 3-km.

According to PCB officials, an estimated 80.70 million litres of effluent water was discharged into the Noyal river daily from dyeing and bleaching units in Tirupur and its vicinity. Another 30 lakh litres of untreated municipal waste water also found its way into the river, making it one of the most polluted rivers in the State.

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