Let’s stop viewing water pollution as only an environmental problem. It is a business problem, with the potential to disrupt operations. The latest example is in India, where court orders shut down all 729 dyeing and bleaching facilities in the city of Tirupur. In order to reopen, the facilities must achieve zero liquid discharge‚ not a simple feat.
Tirupur is a major source of India’s garment exports, accounting for 20 percent. Farmers downstream have been sounding the alarm bells for some time about the toxic effluent these dye houses have dumped into the local water. They petitioned to have something done about the effluent back in 2009. As a result, some dyeing facilities installed effluent treatment plants to manage the pollution. The $260 million investment was, however, ineffective and the pollution continued.
The closure of dyeing facilities had been one of the central issues in the latest round of local elections in India. The residents were conflicted on the issue, with some focusing on the ill-effects of the pollution, and others more concerned with the immediate loss of jobs and the ripple-effect the closures would have in related industries. Without dyeing facilities, there is no reason to buy cotton, supply chemicals and dyes, or operate knitting mills, etc.
In a public meeting last month, a group of Tirupur exporters said the dye house closures had cost the region 100,000 jobs. If the businesses remain shut down for an extended time, the exporters believe 500,000 workers from ancillary industries could also lose their jobs.
Considering the above situation, we want the central government to file an affidavit in the Supreme Court as an interim relief, with a prayer to grant extension of time by six months for achieving 100 percent zero liquid discharge and, consequently, permit the reopening of bleaching and dyeing units, an industry representative told the Business Standard.
The court’s decision to close the facilities came in response to a petition circulated by non-government bodies and farmers who are against the offending polluters. The conduct of some should not be allowed to disrupt the businesses and lives of many. When the textile facilities sought a nine-month delay in closure to achieve zero liquid discharge, the court denied the request. The industry representative told the Business Standard said the only permanent solution is to discharge the pollution into the sea.
We couldn’t disagree more. Sending pollution to the sea will only delay the effects of the pollution, not end them. China experienced a similar textile pollution problem last year, and the country resolved the situation by permanently closing the most polluting textile dye facilities.
This is a major test for the Indian textile industry. We’ll be watching closely to see how they resolve the problem. There are reports of some manufacturers opening new factories in another area and on private lands in the hopes of evading regulators. Let’s hope this doesn’t become the long term “solution” for India.