The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) is optimistic about effluent treatment plants (ETPs) and common ETPs (CEPTs) starting work in Tirupur as directed by the courts. G Rengaswamy, member secretary, TNPCB, says: "80 per cent of CETPs are already functional and by November the others will have to start functioning."
S Shanmugasundaram, TNPCB environmental engineer at Tirupur, says: "Eight CETPs will start functioning on November 23. We will monitor just these eight plants which are coming up at the cost of Rs 28.98 crore."
However, just commissioning the CETPs will not take care of all the problems. The industry pleads lack of technical knowledge and lack of funds. Says N Kandaswamy, president of the Tirupur Dyers Association since its inception in 1984: "There have also been delays in getting loans cleared. As of May 1998 only two CETPs have received financial assistance. Financial institutions have not released their portion of the commitment.
"Even for solid wastes. the TNPCB has asked US to identify a safe disposal site. As we do not have the requisite technical knowledge how can we find such a site? Regarding the cleanup of Orathapalayam 'reservoir we agreed to undertake the task as we practically had no options at the time."
S P Natarajan. chairperson of the CETP company at Angeripalayam, reiterates this stance adding that while they would be dependant on the TNPCB for technical assistance, the cost factor was an issue of concern. "The expense of running the plant will not ensure profits. There is a financial crunch as subsidies are not substantial." However, this argument goes against the polluterpays principle. Why should public funds be used to clean up pollution caused by private companies?
When CETPs were first proposed in 1989 for 300 bleaching and dyeing units, industry was to contribute 10 per cent of the cost, 50 per cent was to be covered by governmental subsidies and the remainder was to come in the form of loans from banking institutions.
In 1993, changing economic policies reduced subsidies to Rs 1 crore from the earlier amount of Rs 6 crore. The industry's share doubled to 20 per cent of the cost. Industry reacted by almost turning their backs on the idea of CETPs. The idea was again picked up the following year by TNPCB. Tirupur was divided into 11 zones, each with a CETP to be run by an independent company. Each zone has 34 to 107 textile processing units.