WORKING PAPER 7/2006
Industrial disposal of effluents on land and subsequent pollution of groundwater and soil of surrounding farmlands is a relatively new area of research. Environmenal and socio-economic aspects of industrial effluent irrigation have not been studied as extensively as domesticsewage based irrigation practices, at least for developing countries like India. Disposal of treated and untreated industrial effluents on land has become a regular practice for some industries. Industries located in Mettupalayam taluk, Tamilnadu dispose their effluents on land, and the farmers of the adjacen farmlands have complained that their shallow open wells get polluted and also the salt content of soil has started building up slowly. This study attempts to capure the environmental and socio-economic impacts of industrial effluent irrigation in different industrial locations at Mettupalayam taluk through primary surveys and secondary information. This study found that coninuous disposal of industrial effluents on land, which has limited capacity to assimilate the pollution load, has led to groundwater pollution. Ground water quality of shallow open wells surrounding the industrial locations has deteriorated, and the application of polluted groundwater fo irrigation has resulted in increased salt conent of soils. In some locations drinking water wells (deep bore wells) also have high concentration of salts. Since the farmers had already shifted their cropping pattern to salt toleran crops (like jasmine, curry leaf, tobacco etc.) and substituted their irrigation source from shallow open wells to deep bore wells and/or river water the impact of pollution on livelihood was minimised. Since the local administration is supplying drinking water to households the impact in the domestic secor has been minimised. It has also been noticed that in some locations industries are supplying drinking water to the affected households. However, if the pollution continues unabated it could pose serious problems in the future.