Pollachi Wants Pollution to End as TN Parties Start Campaign
Fine particles from the coir industry plague Pollachi villages as production booms.
Video Editor: Sandeep Suman
Cameraperson & Producer: Smitha TK
For nature lovers Pollachi and its coconut groves maybe a dream destination, but rapid pollution is taking away the green sheen of the town.
People of Kallipattipudur in Tamil Nadu’s Pollachi have been fighting for basic needs, such as clean air and water, even as coir pith industrial units have been mushrooming in the area.
Polluting Air, Water and Soil?
Nearly one lakh people are directly and indirectly employed in the coir units in Pollachi that export 90 per cent of their produce to China. The annual revenue generated by the units through exports stands at Rs 1,400 crore. The story behind this large scale industrial development is, however, worrisome.
Coconut husk procured from local markets of Mysore, Pattukottai, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa is dumped in factories here. The pith and fibre are then separated. The fibre is processed and sold. The coir pith is spread out in open fields, watered thrice and left to dry for over three months. This has allowed harmful waste to seep into the ground and pollute water sources.
The villagers of Kallipattipudur have alleged that open drying of coir waste has resulted in air pollution. The industrial units have also been illegally extracting groundwater, they alleged.
Villagers Voice Concerns
For the past five years, Kumar Raj and Jyothi Sathya Priya have been fighting a battle against the alleged illegal extraction of water and violation of coir industry regulations.
Villagers allege that the coir companies in the region do not have requisite permissions from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB).
The Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board (TWAD) which conducted tests in the village's water sources has confirmed that the water has been highly contaminated with excess levels of iron and ammonia.
The water’s Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) levels are at 800 plus points which means that it is highly contaminated.
"We spend lakhs of rupees to buy drinking water. This water can't be used even for agricultural purposes. In the last few years our coconut farm yields have come down tremendously. There is no other crop that grows here because our soil has become infertile. The coir pith dust has settled on all the leaves and our houses. It is causing breathing difficulties,” said Kumar Raj.
“A dog and a cow died after drinking this polluted water,” said Rajendran who lives in the village.
“Here groundwater extraction has been banned but industries are extracting 20,000-30,000 litres of water from the borewells daily. This has affected irrigation.”Kumar Raj, Farmer
In homes one notices a brown haze on kitchen slabs, windows and even the floors. Most of the plants too have a layer of dust that has stunted their growth.
Residents in the area have been facing skin and eye allergies apart from lung and throat infections.
“I have asthma and now because of the dust, I get breathing trouble even if I stay indoors. I have been diagnosed with serious respiratory illnesses and the doctor blames it on the coir dust,” said Pushpa, an elderly woman of the village.
Solutions for the Menace?
The villagers have filed several RTIs, sent representations to all authorities concerned but no action has been taken so far.
“These industries have been functioning without getting approved licenses from Tahsildar, BDO, Pollution Control Board and Panchayat,” Priya alleged.
The villagers proposed that strict safety regulations be introduced to ensure that tarpaulin is used for the drying of coir pith and the waste be stored in an enclosed space.
“These industries can also be relocated to a separate space like SIDCO, that is away from residential spaces,” Raj suggested.
Ahead of assembly elections slated for April, political parties are campaigning in Pollachi promising a boost for industries. But all that the villagers want are clean water and air.
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