It is three years since High Court ordered closure of dyeing units

It is three years since the Madras High Court ordered the closure of all dyeing and bleaching units in the Tirupur knitwear cluster for polluting the Noyyal river, but the pollution menace continues.

The order was passed on January 28, 2011 on a petition moved by farmers that the units did not adhere to the directions of the Supreme Court and High Court to comply with Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) norms in effluent treatment.

Though there have been some efforts by the dyeing sector to improve the effluent treatment method after the court order, the pollution has been largely continuing.

The discharge is still a cause for concern to farmers in the command areas of the Noyyal river and other waterbodies like Nanajarayan tank in Tirupur, among others.

In the last three years, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board unearthed over 300 units involved in illegal operations and discharging of untreated effluents into the waterbodies and open grounds, polluting the groundwater table in Tirupur and its immediate suburbs.

The court, while pronouncing the closure order, had directed that Common Effluent Treatment Plants (CETPs)/Individual Effluent Treatment Plants (IETPs) be permitted to operate only if they achieved ZLD norms.

Now, 18 CETPs, covering around 350 dyeing units, were in operation under trial basis apart from 52 individual plants functioning in Tirupur. Farmers affected by the pollution question how and why could the trial run of commercial operations go on for more than two years now.

“With polluted effluents continuing to be seen in waterbodies and the TNPCB detecting illegal units every now and then, there is doubt over the genuineness of the trial run,” K.C.M. Balasubramaniam, a farmer and retired agriculture economist from Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, pointed out.

K. Duraisamy, farmer and secretary of Tirupur Groundwater Protection Association, termed the trial run an eyewash, as untreated effluents were still found in large quantities in open areas and streams in the surroundings of dyeing units.

S. Nagarajan, president of Dyers Association of Tirupur, said the association, which is against illegal operations and also taking all efforts to ensure ZLD norms, had appealed to the Centre to widen the purview of Integrated Processing Development Scheme to cover the generation of power/upgradation in the dyeing sector and thereby, ensure cheaper power to the units.

Units discharge effluents without treating them only to reduce power cost, which is almost 50 per cent of the total operational cost in dyeing effluent treatment, he said.