Public of Mathagiri, Kosur and Thondamanginam panchayats in Karur district have strongly opposed the establishment of a Treatment, Storage and Disposal Facility (TSDF) at Mathagiri for disposing of hazardous chemical sludge.

The sludge is generated while treating the effluents discharged from the approximately 490 dyeing units in Karur. There are a total of 42 individual Effluent Treatment Plants and eight Common ETPs in Karur treating the polluted effluent discharged from the dyeing units.

Mathagiri is an arid, backward area neither remotely connected to textile industry nor had benefited in any manner out of that activity. The three panchayats have repeatedly registered their vehement opposition to the establishment of TSDF at Mathagiri. They allege that all water sources would be polluted due to the TSDF and the environment would be irrevocably altered causing air and water pollution affecting generations to come.

Already the ETPs and CETPs have been saddled with more than 60,000 tonnes of sludge and that gets increased by at least 14.25 tonnes a day. The sludge is a highly hazardous chemical waste that quickly destroys whatever comes into contact with it as it mainly consists of lime and dissolved salts.

Since disposal of sludge remained a problem since the ETPs were established under intense pressure after 1995, the treatment plants themselves have been storing mounds of sludge. Coming under attack for their crass negligence the units decided to establish a secured landfill to dump the sludge. The Federation of CETPs and ETPs then purchased 20.645 hectares of land at Mathagiri village, about 60 km from Karur, to establish a common hazardous waste secured landfill facility. Designs were cleared and the Monitoring Committee appointed by the Supreme Court, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) and the National Productivity Council guided and assisted the Federation. The State Government notified the site for the purpose of establishing the TSDF in August 2005.

When the units were wondering what to do with the mounting sludge problem the Chettinad Cement Corporation came up with a field trial to use the sludge in the cement kiln as a raw material. They lifted 4,000 tonnes of sludge but later on made it clear that the sludge was spoiling their machinery and was not fit as a raw material even for cement.

The universal norm of “polluter pays” should hold good in Karur too and the officials including the district administration, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board and the Revenue Department should not dither or be lax in bringing the polluters to book, the villagers contend.