Tirupur’s gain, Bengaluru’s bane: Illegal dyeing units sprout up along the Arkavati

An illegal dyeing unit along the Arkavati on the outskirts of Bengaluru that was shut down recently; in such units, cloth pieces are brought, dunked into chemicals and the effluent is let into the river   | Photo Credit: Handout E Mail

In a matter of days, a patch of farmland beside the dying Arkavati river becomes an impromptu dyeing unit. Corrugated sheets form the walls and roof, while power is drawn from a pump set nearby. Cloth pieces are brought, dunked into chemicals and the effluent is dumped in the river.

The emergence of such fly-by-night operators along the banks of the Arkavati and Vrishabhavati over the past few months has kept officials of the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) on tenterhooks. In the past year, at least 20 such illegal dyeing units have been detected, and closed. Many are believed to have come from Tirupur, a hub for dyeing that has been hit after the Madras High Court ordered them to shut shop if they continue to pollute the Noyyal.

They are tying up with farmers and small industries along the Arkavati to operate illegal dyeing units.

One such unit was found at Siddanahalli. It had been functioning for two months. "We have written to Bescom to shut power supply to an adjoining concrete block factory from where it was drawing power illegally," said a KSPCB official.

Downstream, officials came across a crude dyeing unit, with just three machines, that had come up on a farmland near Kanakapura. Similar units have been detected by the banks of the putrid Vrishabhavati, which joins Arkavati near Kanakapura.

According to KSPCB officials, 14 such units have been shut down in the past year. Ramanagaram has seen the closure of at least six units.

Janardhan Kesargadde from Arkavathy-Kumudavathi Nadi Punaschetana Samiti, who had complained to the KSPCB about the Siddanahalli unit, wants the KSPCB to be proactive. "These are criminal cases, and there needs to be strict action to set a precedent," he said.

KSPCB chairman Lakshman, said, "These units are set up by industrialists from Tirupur and elsewhere in Tamil Nadu, where courts have banned them from discharging effluent into rivers. We are taking strict action when we are alerted about such units."

They are a source of concern for legal units

An office-bearer of the Dyers’ Association in Tirupur, who spoke to The Hindu on the condition of anonymity, claimed the illegal units were being set up by former employees, mostly dyeing masters and supervisors.

"In 2011, there were 700 dyeing companies in Tirupur. Now, there are 500. Workers of closed units are setting up factories near the Arkavati," said the office-bearer who runs a factory in Tirupur. The illegal businesses have hit them hard. "We pay ₹65 lakh as electricity charges and a further ₹40 lakh annually on raw materials to run effluent treatment plants. The illegal units do not have this financial obligation. Hence, they charge clients ₹15 less for dyeing a piece of cloth," the member explained.

The association has petitioned the Tamil Nadu State Pollution Control Board to pressure their Karnataka counterparts to stop the illegal units.

‘Tackle industrial pollution’

Even as the KSPCB grapples with illegal dyeing units, the larger polluters operate without hindrance.

Sharachchandra Lele from Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) said illegal dyeing units contribute in a ‘relatively smaller way’ to pollution of the river. The bigger problems are industrial pollution from Peenya and sewage.

"Even during the dry season, ATREE’s research (in 2015) showed that more than 80 million litres of effluent are being released

by industries in Peenya into the Vrishabhavati. Unlike the salts released by dyeing units, these are hazardous heavy metals," Mr. Lele said.

KSPCB chairman Lakshman said the board had set in motion the process of setting up a common effluent treatment plant for small-scale industries in Peenya.

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Printable version | Jun 21, 2021 1:35:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/tirupurs-gain-bengalurus-bane-illegal-dyeing-units-sprout-up-along-the-arkavati/article17449481.ece

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