The only greenery that one can see on the Namakkal-Karur stretch of the National Highway-7 (NH-7) is the Ghanera – commonly known as ‘arali’ in Tamil – in the median. But for the sewage from a pond behind the Sri Lankan Refugee Camp in Paramathi in Paramathi Velur taluk, most of these flowering plants would have dried weeks ago.

“Every day, about 64,000 litres of sewage collected in the pond – where the wastes from the refugee camp gets stagnated in a dry canal – is pumped into water tankers and is used for watering the Ghanera,” drivers running the water tankers said. They added that this had been their routine for the last two months following the acute water shortage in this dry district.

Officials in the Namakkal Toll Plaza, at Keerambur, said that they hired two water tankers on contract to water the plants in the middle of the highway for a stretch of 42 km – from Mudalaipatti in Namakkal district to Karur. “The tankers used to pump water from two open wells owned by us (National Highway contractors). These wells that are 100 feet deep dried up two months ago,” they said. They added that they were pushed into a situation to water the plants with sewage as a few of them started dying. “We thought of buying water from other places and use it for watering the plants but we saw people facing difficulty to buy potable water. It was then we decided to make use of the waste water,” they added.

Truck drivers operating the tankers said that they collected about eight truck loads of sewage from the pool – four loads per truck. Environment activist R. Mathialagan said that the State Highways Department should also take up such measures to water the trees alongside the State Highways across the district.

“Hundreds of trees can be seen withered, due to unavailability of water. It is the duty of the department that marks and numbers the trees to water and keep them alive,” he added.