Noyyal River Basin, a pollution cocktail from textile industry, TN, India

Garments industries polluting river basins. A study at University of Madras showed that more than half of the people interviewed reported health problems such as diarrhoea and cholera, while more than 75 per cent said they suffered skin diseases


Description

An environmental conflict in the Tiruppur region is due to the enormous growth of the garment industry and operation of bleaching and dyeing units in the past 60 years. In 1941 there were only two such units; by 1997 there were 866, consuming about 90 million litres a day of water and releasing about 87 million litres a day of effluents into the Noyyal River. It is a seasonal river that passes through Coimbatore, Erode and Karur in Tamil Nadu state during October and December and has return flows from the Lower Bhavani Project. The Orathapalayam Dam project crosses the Noyyal near the Orathapalayam village. In 1995, four years after the dam was completed, downstream farmers objected to the release of water, which had become highly contaminated from the dyeing and bleaching units, and filed a case in the Chennai High Court the following year. In 1997 the fisheries department closed its operations at the reservoir and the High Court ordered dam water not be released for irrigation. [1] Now the Orathapalayam Dam has become a mere storage tank for industrial effluent, which could neither be discharged into the river, nor be stored due to percolation and contamination of groundwater aquifers. Industrial pollution in Tiruppur has significantly affected the Noyyal River, totally contaminated the Orathapalayam Dam, contaminated the Chauvery River, caused great economic loss for farmers and affected residents' health. [5] The High Court mandated polluting units connect to a common effluent treatment plant or install individual effluent treatment plants. More than 160 units were shut down, but observers say treated effluents do not meet standards prescribed by the Pollution Control Board, particularly regarding total dissolved solids and chlorides. According to state Pollution Control Board rules, 'red' and 'orange' category units (highest polluting industries, which include dyeing and bleaching) should be situated 1km from a river/ stream or any other water source. In Tiruppur, as at 2007, about 239 units were located less than 300m from the Noyyal River. About 83 per cent of the individual effluent treatment plants discharge their effluents directly or indirectly into the water bodies. [1] About half of villagers who participated in a University of Madras study said air pollution was common in their areas due to effluent. Every single respondent experienced water pollution, while 90.55 per cent said land pollution was evident. More than half of people reported experiencing health problems such as diarrhoea and cholera, while more than 75 per cent said they suffered skin diseases. [5] 

Basic Data
NameNoyyal River Basin, a pollution cocktail from textile industry, TN, India
CountryIndia
ProvinceTamil Nadu
SiteTiruppur District
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Dams and water distribution conflicts
Manufacturing activities
Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Specific CommoditiesWater
Land
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe Orathupalayam Dam was constructed on the Noyyal River in 1991 to irrigate 203ha in Erode district and 4000ha in Karur district. But instead of serving its purpose it became a storage tank for wastewater as the textile units started releasing their effluent into the dam’s reservoir. This effluent could neither be discharged into the river nor be stored due to percolation and contamination of groundwater aquifers. The effect of pollution was noticed when there was great economic loss for farmers in the downstream areas of Erode and Karur districts, in addition to contaminating the river Cauvery River.

According to the TNPCB (Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board) 88 million litres of effluents, after primary treatment in effluent treatment plants, are being released into the Noyyal every day. The TNPCB Board stipulates total dissolved solids (TDS) in water discharged into the river should not be more than 2100 parts per million (ppm). But the TDS level in the water in the Orathupalayam Dam area is above 9000 ppm; in summer, when water evaporation is higher, the level of TDS is even higher. The effluent discharged into the stream and on land has severely impacted agriculture, fisheries and drinking water. With the Orthupalyam Dam filling with effluent, farmers were unable to irrigate their land. The effluent also percolated down to join the groundwater, making the water unfit for both irrigation and for drinking. The yield of the crop has declined and the quality of the soil has also deteriorated. The damage to agriculture caused by effluent discharge is estimated to be US$36,490,937. [3]
Project Area (in hectares)8,200
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population2,500,000
Start Date01/01/1995
Company Names or State EnterprisesNoyyal River Restoration Federation
Siruthuli from India
Relevant government actorsTamil Nadu Pollution Control Board
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Fishermen
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local government/political parties
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Food insecurity (crop damage), Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Air pollution, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood
Outcome
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseEnvironmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Development of AlternativesHundreds of thousands of people rely on the garment industry for their livelihoods. Some farmers have been waiting for compensation from the Loss of Ecology Authority since 2002. In April 2016 it was pronounced dysfunctional by the Chennai High Court and was absorbed into the National Green Tribunal. [6] To address the ongoing problem, researchers N. Jayakumar and A. Rajagopal say an integrated approach is needed to establish a management body that includes all stakeholders - particularly government departments, farmers, industrialists and NGOs. "This could be undertaken by an external agency by organizing dialogues and negotiations through the multi-stakeholders' dialogue approach or the formation of multi-stakeholders' platforms aimed at sustainable development of water resources in the basin." [1]
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Industrial waste continues to be released into the waterways of the Noyyal River Basin.
Sources and Materials
References

[3] Jayanth Sarathi, N., Karthik, R., Logesh, S., Srinivas Rao, K. and Vijayanand, K. ‘Environmental issues and its impacts associated with the textile processing units in Tiruppur, Tamilnadu’, Second International Conference on Environmental Science and Development, 2011.
[click to view]

[5] Akilan, S. T. 'Textile pollution and sociological implications: A case study in the selected villages of Noyyal River belt, Tamil Nadu', EPRA International Journal of Economic and Business Review; Vol 4, Issue 2, February 2016.
[click to view]

[1] Jayakumar, N. and Rajagopal, A. 'Noyyal River Basin: Water, water everywhere, not a drop to drink', Water conflicts in India: A million revolts in the making, 2007.

Links

Vanita Mohan has reclaimed many water bodies, now she has launched Noyyal River Restoration Federation - July 2016
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Noyyal restoration begins - March 2016
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Noyyal Orathupalayam Dam project information
[click to view]

[4] Siruthuli - Restore River Noyyal
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Siruthuli submits proposal for restoration of Noyyal basin - July 2012
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[6] Wind up Loss of Ecology Authority, says HC - April 2016
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Other Documents

Toxic waters of the Noyyal River Effluents from industrial units form a foam in the Noyyal River near Aathupalam in Coimbatore. Photo: The Hindu
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Other CommentsSiruthuli (A Tiny Drop) is a trust formed of businesses from Coimbatore. In 2012 it proposed the 'Restore River Noyyal' project, which commenced in 2016. "River Noyyal in Coimbatore had 34 streams which helped it to flow perennially. Today only four exist," the trust says. "Siruthuli has mapped the entire river and its streams. Once the streams are cleaned and restored, the river shall flow once again." [4] The project is expected to cost more than US$25 million.
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ContributorWater Conflict Forum
Last update13/09/2016
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