November 5

Industries polluting various rivers in Tamil Nadu

[5 NOVEMBER, 2001]

ADURAI: Industrial pollution has led to rapid deterioration of the three main rivers of Kongumandalam (Erode, Coimbatore and part of Karur districts), with salinity touching up to 1700 mg per litre, according to the Peace Trust, an NGO fighting for the cause of environment protection.

The rivers, which once enriched the fertility of the land, were now polluting not only the drinking water source but lands and tanks as well. "The Noyyal river is in its death bed, while the Bhavani river has won the dubious distinction of being the 'most polluted' river in the country" the Peace Trust, quoting various studies, said in a press release in Madurai.

More than 600 electroplating and moulding units drained their effluents into the Noyyal river. Hundreds of dyeing units in the Coimbatore district, which does not have effluent treatment plants, also discharged their waste into the river, the press release said.

The effluents from the knitting units from Tiruppur have turned the river acidic, the release said. The number of dying units in the area increased to 900 and the chlorine content in the water had gone up to 4,500 mg, the release said.

The Orathupalayam dam, built at a cost of Rs 33.88 lakh to irrigate 21,500 acres of land, "has become storage tank for the effluents of the dyeing units". The dam water seepage had poisoned the underground water also, affecting the farms in the entire belt, the release said.

A study carried out in Erode revealed that cattle in the area suffered from skin diseases and became impotent or infertile, the release said. The Bhavani river, the lifeline of people of Erode district, has been polluted by effluents, including phosphate, sulphate, ammonia and nitrate discharged by various industrial units, including those situated in the catchment areas and the river bank.

The catchment areas of the Bhavani have been converted into tea and other plantations leading to soil erosion. The pesticides and fertilisers used for the vast stretches of the plantations also were polluting the river, the release said.

The Bhavani and the Bhavani Sagar which together irrigated 2.27 lakh acres of land have polluted most of the fields down the stream. The total dissolved solid (TDS) was now 110-150 per mg per litre. The biological oxygen demand (BOD) content was 102-250 mg per litre against the permitted 30 mg, while the chemical oxygen demand (COD) content was 450-600 mg per litre.

A wattle extracting unit, viscose unit, distilleries and bleaching units were mainly responsible for the pollution. A study carried out at a viscose unit by the Greenpeace recently said that the effluent water contained dioxcin, which could cause cancer and impotency.

Any pollution in the Bhavani could affect about 60 lakh people living along its bank, the release said.

The Amaravathi river from Tirumurhty hills had been polluted by various dyeing units located in the area, which used about 60 types of chemicals. A study conducted by the Environment Research Centre in 1995 revealed that the drinking water supplied by the Tantondrimalai panchayat was not fit for human or cattle consumption and asked for severe action against the polluting units, it said.

The effluents from dyeing units caused not only skin diseases, but stomach and head ache. Women developed uterus problem and complained that their hair was falling, the release said.

The highly contaminated Bhavani and Amaravathi rivers were polluting the waters of the Cauvery which irrigated about 64 per cent of the agricultural land in the state. Paper industry was discharging about 46,800 litres of waste water into the Cauvery besides 7.5 lakh litres of polluted water by three sugarcane units.

The three water starved districts - Coimbatore, Erode and Karur were among the districts that recorded less rainfall compared to other districts in Tamil Nadu. The various studies suggest that immediate steps should be taken to protect the rivers. ( PTI )