Untreated effluents in canal adding to farmers’ woes

Untreated effluents from the textile processing units enter Kalingarayan Canal, near Erode— PHOTO: M. GOVARTHAN  

Farmers in the Kalingarayan ayacut areas in the district are now forced to use water from Kalingarayan Canal that is mixed with untreated effluents and waste water discharged by textile processing and tannery units.

The Public Works Department stopped on December 20 the discharge of water in the canal that feeds the ayacut. But the 56-and-a-half mile long irrigation canal connecting River Bhavani with River Noyyal still carries water. “The canal should be dry by this time. But there is still good flow in the canal because the industrial units are dumping thousands of gallons of untreated effluents and waste water every day,” alleges Kalingarayan Pasana Sabhai president V.M. Velayudham.

With the district facing acute water shortage, many farmers are forced to use the toxic effluents and waste water from the industries for irrigation. The ayacut has over 15,000 acres of land and farmers have taken up paddy, sugarcane, turmeric and a number of other crops for cultivation. “The canal is the only source of water to our lands. Since there is little water available in the Bhavanisagar dam, we have no option but to use the toxic effluents to save the standing crops,” says A. Periyasamy, a farmer in the ayacut. The effluents discharged in the canal are highly toxic and the possibility of toxins entering the food chain is high, environmental activists point out.

The absence of effective monitoring from the district administration and the Tamil Nadu Pollutfion Control Board is the primary reason that has encouraged industrial units to dump the untreated effluents in the canal, causing serious damage to the environment. A majority of the units functioning near the canal are unauthorised. “These units do not have any equipment to treat the effluents. They simply dump the effluents in the canal,” S. Arumugam, another farmer points out.

“The approved units, which claim that they have effluent treatment plants, also resort to the practice of dumping because it is an easy way out,” says district secretary of Tamil Nadu Farmers’ Association T. Subbu.

The farmers have urged the State government to initiate stern action against the industrial units that cause pollution.