Environmentalists say the park will lead to severe pollution, affecting the livelihoods of farmers and fishermen in villages near the site
Opposition to the South Indian Mills Association’s (SIMA) plan to set up a textile processing park in Periyapattu in the district, is gaining momentum with the Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board (TWAD) halting work on laying pipelines due to stiff opposition from local residents.
Over 10 textile companies under the aegis of SIMA have proposed to set up their processing units in phase III of the SIPCOT industrial park in the district. Though the project was mooted way back in 2012 by SIMA at an estimate of ₹600 crore, it has met with stiff opposition from the residents of Thyagavalli, Thiruchopuram, Andarmullipallam and Kayalpattu villages in Periyapattu panchayat.
The move by the TWAD to lay pipelines for a distance of 18.5 km for the project ran into rough weather on September 21, after residents opposed the move strongly. The work was halted and the district administration elicited the views of village residents, environmentalists and representatives of SIMA at a peace meeting chaired by the Collector Chandra Sekhar Sakhamuri on Tuesday.
A senior official said that the work had neither begun nor stopped. “We have elicited the suggestions and objections raised by the village residents and plan to address the issues one by one. We will be sending a report to the government,” he said.
Meanwhile, a group of environmentalists attached to SIPCOT Area Community Environmental Monitors (SACEM) sent a petition to the Collector seeking his reconsideration of the permission granted to the project.
M. Ramanathan of SACEM said that the textile park coming up at Periyapet would lead to severe pollution resulting in irreparable damage to the environment and affect the livelihoods of farmers and fishermen in villages near the site. “Already, industries in SIPCOT phase I and II are extracting groundwater indiscriminately through nine borewells sunk in the estates. The quantum of supply from the borewells could not be monitored as flow metres have not been installed. While groundwater levels have been severely depleted, SIPCOT has now proposed to supply water from Phases I and II to the units coming up in Phase III located at a distance of 10 km. A few villages have already been affected by depleting groundwater levels and the commissioning of the park would aggravate the situation,” he said.
The effluents from the park would also be released into the sea and this would affect marine ecology of the coast.
S. Sivasankar, an environmentalist said that SIPCOT had failed to obtain groundwater clearance from the competent authority. SIPCOT had also violated the standing orders of the Public Works Department (PWD), which stipulates that any groundwater proposals falling within a perpendicular distance of 10 km from the coast should be rejected at the outset.
The Tami Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) had extended consent to establish the facility to SIMA in 2012, subject to the condition that SIPCOT should obtain groundwater clearance from the competent authority in three months. But SIPCOT has failed to obtain clearance all these years. Hence, SIPCOT should drop the move to lay pipelines from Semmankuppam to Periyapattu, Mr. Sivasankar said.
A senior official in SIPCOT on anonymity said that work on laying pipelines had been halted. Local residents have been raising strong objections to the project. Though a peace meeting was convened with all stakeholders, no decision has been taken, he said.
According to T. Arul Selvam of SACEM, the discharge of heavy metals in the effluents released by the industries had already affected groundwater quality in the region.
A report of the Comprehensive Pollution Control Index (CEPI) submitted by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to the National Green Tribunal shows that no tangible measures have been taken to bring down pollution levels in Cuddalore SIPCOT. While there has been a sight improvement in the pollution levels of air and land over the years, there has been no improvement in the water quality in Cuddalore SIPCOT.
The pollution levels in water stood at 58.25 out of 100 in 2018 as against 53.50 in 2013 and 50.00 in 2011. Residents who consume contaminated water have been exposed to various health hazards. Cuddalore is a water-stressed area and setting up of more units would cause irreparable damage to ecology, Mr. Selvam said.
By S. Prasad