Karthik Madhavan

Contaminated water damages cotton, ragi and other crops

PERUNDURAI: Houses in Elayampalayam, a village bordering the SIPCOT here and coming under Chennimalai Union, resemble islands. The roads, lanes and bylanes leading to the hamlet are either under water or marshy. The area has 60 families, most of which are Dalits.

The residents say the water presence has got nothing to do with rains. "It is not rain water that inundates our area but effluents from the dyeing units in the industrial estate," they allege.

Remote hamlet

Being a remote hamlet, brick houses are a luxury here. The walls and floors are of mud, which is wet owing to the presence of water all around. Villagers sleep on cardboards and rugs. A villager Duraian says: "To avoid sleeping on a wet floor, I use a cardboard as bed." He has an alternative set of cardboards, which he dries in the sun to sleep the next day.

That apart, the villagers say commutation is a problem. "Not only wading through the water is a problem but also the itching that comes with it. The chemicals in the water trigger itching," complains an elderly woman.

The villagers further say that the water has killed their lands' fecundity.

"I grew cotton, ragi and a few others on my seven acres, which in the past three years has turned barren," laments farmer Ponnusamy. He blames it on the water from dyeing units.

Apart from Elayampalayam villagers, those in the neighbourhood also allege that water from the dyeing industries has affected them. They put the number of affected villages at 68. "In the villages where the water flows, there is very little agricultural activity, the ground water is affected and commutation is also a problem," the villagers complain in unison.

Representatives of the Perundurai SIPCOT Textile Processors Association, however, deny the allegation. The Association's president, P.K.N. Chandrasekaran, claims that all the units in the industrial estate comply with the zero discharge rule. "No unit in the area lets out untreated effluent." Recently this problem snowballed into a major crisis, forcing the Kangayam MLA, Vidiyal Sekar, to intervene. He held a meeting involving the affected people and the industrialists concerned.

Mr. Sekar told The Hindu that effluents affected the villagers' life and also polluted water bodies in the neighbourhood. He further said he had raised the issue in the Assembly and had sought an appointment with the Chief Minister to arrive at a solution to the problem.

In the backdrop of the developments, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, Erode, a couple of days ago sealed five units functioning in SIPCOT on charges of letting out untreated effluents.