Disturbing findings in CSE’s second study on Pali

Pali (Rajasthan), September 18, 2014: Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a leading environmental think tank based in New Delhi, released its second study on the pollution from dyeing and textile mills in Pali, Rajasthan. Pali was classified as a critically polluted industrial cluster by the Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB) Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI).

There are 800 textile units in the town. Of these, 200 fall under the ‘orange category’, and do not discharge any effluents. 600 units are under the ‘red category’ of which about 75-80 are non-operational. The 515 operational units discharge their effluents to four Common Effluent Treatment Plants, or CETPs.

The results of the CSE report, which was based on 15 water samples from a widely dispersed area collected by CSE and analysed in its in-house Pollution Monitoring Lab (PML) are disturbing.

• Out of the total five surface water samples, 80 per cent (four) were not fit to be used under any class of surface water given high levels of various pollutants/contaminants

• Of the three drinking water samples only one was fit for drinking while two samples taken from the wells in Jaitpur and Nehra villages in Pali district were not potable.

• Seven samples were taken from effluents from the mills; approximately 80 per cent of the samples were found to be highly polluted when even compared with CPCB standards for textile effluents as per the results obtained for their pH, dissolved oxygen (DO), total dissolved solids (TDS), chemical oxygen demand (COD), chloride, sulfide and sulphate analysis.

• Phenolic compounds were found in five samples obtained from the CETPs of which the level in one was higher than permissible levels.

The results were expected and, furthermore, corroborated by the first-hand survey of the farmers and residents of Pali.

Dyeing and printing, the wet processing components of textile units, are the first culprits. The waters of the river Bandi and the Nehra dam located downstream of the town, as well as groundwater, have all been severely impacted due to this. Furthermore, the CETP that was set up to treat the effluents of the industry is not even used to full capacity – out of its total capacity of 34.68 MLD, it treats only 17 MLD of effluents. It is possible some mills continue to dump effluents illegally.

A related issue is technology: With over 60 per cent cotton dying mills and 40 per cent synthetic, the type of dyes used and, consequently, characteristic of effluents has changed over a period of time. The CETPs are old, have dated technology and are unable to treat effluents properly. Also, the CETP technology is obsolete – what is needed is zero liquid discharge (ZLD) treatment that recovers most of the salts used and recycles the water for the mill’s use.

The final issue is inadequate monitoring and pollution control. The regional and state Pollution control board (PCB) offices suffer from manpower shortage. The infrastructure is also inadequate: there is no lab for Pali area for testing of samples. The state PCB needs to push better compliance and monitoring and industries which are not complying with the norms should be shut down with immediate effect. The PCB officials acknowledged the CETP technology is deficient but assured that capacity is being enhanced.

All these issues were highlighted in a documentary that was also released along with the report. The documentary showed interviews with farmers who complained about the destruction of their lands and water pollution that has impacted their livelihoods.

About the study
The tests were carried out using internationally accepted and standardised procedures: Total dissolved solids (TSS), chloride, sulphate were determined by using the standard methods published jointly by American Public Health Association (APHA), the American Water Works Association (AWWA), and the Water Environment Federation (WEF). The chemical oxygen demand (COD) of the samples was determined by methodology analogous to US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).