Friday, Aug 27, 2004
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By L. Renganathan
KARUR, AUG. 26. Thousands of farmers in Karur and Erode are an agitated lot. Following release of polluted water from the Orathupalayam dam into the Noyyal, their once-fertile lands have been rendered useless and farmers are exposed to skin and other ailments.
Water was released from the Orathupalayam dam into the Noyyal for five days from August 19, coinciding with the substantial release from the Mettur dam into the Cauvery for irrigation. "The authorities have literally been using the Cauvery to flush the Orathupalayam dam,'' says R. Siva of Kombupalayam, the confluence of the Noyyal with the Cauvery.
The dam in Perundurai taluk of Erode district stores effluents discharged from dyeing and bleaching units in Tirupur in Coimbatore district and agencies of repute have certified that the Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) level in the water was far in excess of permissible limits.
For potable water, the TDS level should strictly be less than 500 mg per litre. But that of the effluent-mixed water was put at over 5,000 mg per litre. Even for irrigation, the TDS limit prescribed is no more than 1,000 mg per litre.
"Our area was once fertile. But after the authorities started discharging polluted water from the Orathupalayam dam into the Noyyal, the drinking water sources in the region have been affected. Vast stretches of land abutting the Noyyal have turned fallow or saline, unfit for raising crops. Standing crops wither in a short time if the Noyyal water is let into the fields," says R. Arumugam of the Kuppagoundanvalasu village on the Karur-Erode border.
Many like R. Palanisamy of Anjur village, who took part in the desilting of the channel connecting Noyyal and the Aathupalayam dam under the Food-for-Work scheme recently, complain of skin ailments after coming into contact with the polluted water. Even fertility of the cattle has been affected, farmers say.
The problem gets aggravated along the right bank of the Cauvery from Kombupalayam to Mayanur, a distance of about 50 km. Officials from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board here are maintaining a close watch on the TDS level and other related parameters. They collect water samples regularly from various points between the two places and send them for testing.
While supply of potable water has been suspended for the past one week in Karur town, civic authorities are advising people to use only boiled water. The Karur Collector has warned those on the banks of Cauvery not to consume the water from the Noyyal and the Cauvery directly.
Those affected want the polluters to pay for the damage done. They also demand that the Government take alternative steps to prevent pollution of the Noyyal and the Cauvery.
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