A waterway that runs through a few villages in Bhavani block of Erode district turned dark red on Thursday.
Villagers said the water in the channel, which ends in River Bhavani, became blood-like overnight.
Annoyed, a few of them managed to track down the source of the pollutant: an unauthorised textile processing unit had dumped huge amount of untreated, toxic effluents into the channel on Wednesday night.
Several other waterways in other parts of Bhavani block also change colour often as unauthorised textile processing and tannery units flourish. “Sometimes, it is dark green or blue. We rarely see clean water running in the channels here these days,” says S. Subramani, a farmer in Kattayampatti.
The absence of effective monitoring had encouraged persons to set up illegal processing units in the block, which were dumping hundreds of gallons of untreated effluents into the water carrying channels and vacant lands. “These units do not have any facilities to treat the effluents. All they do is dump the poisonous waste into the water carrying channels,” points out district secretary of Tamil Nadu Farmers Association T. Subbu.
The district has become a safe haven for the illegal dyeing units after the closure of several textile processing units in Tirupur, a major knitwear export hub, following directions from the Madras High Court. “The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board does very little to reduce the level of pollution. Authorities from the board, who once conducted frequent raids and closed several illegal units in the district, had stopped doing so these days for reasons best known to them,” charges Kalingarayan Pasana Sabhai president V.M. Velayudham.
Mr. Velayudham and several farmers' groups in the district raised the subject of pollution on several occasions. Farmers even brought the polluted water in bottles to their grievance redressal meetings and showed them to the senior officials including the Collector. “Whenever we raise the issue, senior officials here instruct the board to have a look. Then, there is no follow-up,” points out Mr. Subbu.
Agriculture has become unviable and an environmental disaster looms large in the district as the pollution level is rising fast. “The agricultural productivity has come down and many farmers have been forced to migrate to urban areas looking for employment in other sectors,” points out Lower Bhavani Farmers Association president S. Nallasamy.
The farming community has urged the State government to act fast and close all the polluting industrial units in the district to save the agriculture sector.