VELLORE: Saturday’s tragic Ranipet disaster, which claimed the lives of 10 workers of the leather factory, has once again brought to light the inability of the tannery industry to achieve Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) and eliminate lapses in adhering to effluent treatment norms.
Environmentalists say that several tanneries and leather factories continue to discharge their effluent and sludge into the water bodies and surrounding land. According to environmentalists, the authorities choose to remain silent, giving industries a free hand to pollute the environment with officials failing to regulate the industry despite the issue having been frequently raised by farmers’ association meetings NGOs.
“The industry has been contaminating the environment for decades,” said an 80 year-old environmental activist Jamuna Thiyagarajan, adding, “The industries are letting out effluents containing hazardous chemicals like chromium, mercury, hydrogen sulphide. This has made the place difficult for survival.” The leather industries were stealthily dumping the waste after the final stage of treatment in Common Effluent Treatment Plants (CETP), she added.
Officials of TNPCB said that there were eight CETPs and 26 Individual Effluent Treatment Plants (IETPs) in the district. Most of the units have achieved Zero Liquid Discharge, while a few were facing technical difficulties in achieving ZLD. “We are conducting frequent checks and taking measures. We have also issued closure orders to many units to maintain norms,” said a senior official of the TNPCB.
Contradicting the statement of the TNPCB official, a member of the Vellore District Environment Monitoring Committee, N Gajapathy, said that none of the units in the district were able to achieve ZLD. “They are still discharging the effluents into water bodies and open land in the district. We have proved this with material evidences on several occasions,” he noted. However, M Rafeeq Ahmeed, president of All India Skins and Hides Tanners and Merchants Association industrialists said that letting out effluents is a thing of past. The industry has done away with it and successfully adopted ZLD. “We have stocked 1,400 tonnes of salt in our factory premises in Ambur and Vaniyambadi. It is evidence that the CETPs have achieved ZLD. The salt is the final form of the effluent after the discharge from the plant has been treated through various advanced scientific methodologies,” he said.