Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Monday, Jul 04, 2005
Industry & Economy - Environment
Local opposition puts Chemfab desalination project in hot water
Chennai , July 3
HAVING spent Rs 4 crore on the project after duly getting all clearances from the Government for its desalination project, Chemfab Alkalies is wondering how to get around a surprise-problem - opposition from the local fishermen.
Hours before the foundation stone laying ceremony was to begin in Pondicherry, the Chief Guest - the Chief Minister - cancelled his engagement and called for an impromptu meeting of the Government, the fishermen and Chemfab.
The meeting resulted in a decision `to set up a committee to look into the issue', but till date, no such committee has been formed.
The Chemfab Chairman and Managing Director, Dr C.H. Krishnamurthy Rao, said the company did an environment impact assessment though not mandatory to do so. The report was positive.
To be on the safer side, it got the National Institute of Ocean Technology to study the impact on the sea. Go ahead, said the report. The State pollution control board gave a green signal.
Then came into the picture the local fisherfolk.
"We explained to them that we are taking in sea water and putting back sea water," Dr Rao told Business Line .
The project envisages installing of `underwater diffusers', which would catch the counter-currents in the sea and diffuse the discharge water, which anyway is nothing but just sea water with a higher salt content.
"The discharge would mix with sea water in no time," explains Dr Rao. At stake is the future of the Rs 30-crore desalination project that could produce 4,000 cubic metres a day of drinkable water from sea water. It will not only help Chemfab get a comfortable source of water for its caustic soda plant, but also make available drinkable water for the local populace.
The company produces 100 tonnes a day of caustic soda and hopes to expand the facility by 50 per cent. Securing a water source is important, and the desalination plant was conceived for that purpose though as per the agreement with the Pondicherry Government, the company is entitled to draw water from the ground.
"After issuing a GO clearing the project, the Government is not able to help in its implementation," noted Dr Rao. "Halting the project will set a wrong precedent," he said.
The project is unique in a couple of ways. First, it incorporates a pre-treatment facility, where the sea water is treated through ultra filter membranes. Second, the project features a `energy recovery' facility, where the high pressure discharge from the separation chambers runs a turbine to generate electricity.
As a result, the project would consume only four units of electricity, two less than other desalination plants.
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