CHENNAI: It may appear unusual for one government agency accusing another of wrongdoing, but it did happen a case of supplying Thamirabarani water in Thoothukudi district. The Department of Environment and Forests has accused Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage (TWAD) Board of drawing 20 MGD (million gallons of water per day), which roughly translates to 9.20 crore litres, and supplying it to industries flouting norms. This water was originally meant to quench the thirst of people. Now, the environment department has issued notice to TWAD questioning its actions.
Official documents available with Express shows that in 2007, Thoothukudi Collector had made a proposal to the district forest officer seeking permission for constructing an intake well, control room and footbridge in forest area for 20 MGD water supply scheme under Closed Conduit system exclusively for drinking purposes.
For the scheme, 0.055 hectare of forest land was diverted to TWAD. Accordingly, the water supply scheme was commissioned in 2011 and since then water is being drawn from the Srivaikundam dam in Thamirabarani river basin, but is being supplied to industries charging a paltry one paise per litre. A State government order dated March 3, 2008, clearly stated that the scheme is exclusively for drinking purposes.
Sources said the environment department had issued notice on August 3 to TWAD under the Forest (Conservation) Rules, 2003 seeking explanation within 60 days. However, TWAD has not responded yet. Meanwhile, another violation has also been unearthed during the recent field inspection. The TWAD has also built structures beyond their leased out area. Around 0.025 hectare of forest land has been utilised in excess for constructing a compound wall and passage and the transformer yard.
Sources in the environment department said the NGT in May issued an interim stay order restraining TWAD from supplying Thamirabarani water to industries. However, TWAD continued to do so, which amounted to contempt of court.
An RTI filed by S Joel of Thoothukudi who filed the petition in NGT, reveals that none of the industries in the region has permission to extract groundwater for commercial purposes. As per the report of Central Groundwater Authority, there are 12 water aquifers in the district, of which seven are classified as over-exploited, three as semi-critical and only two as safe to extract groundwater.