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Industry in TN too left high and dry

R Balaji Chennai | Updated on January 13, 2018 Published on March 12, 2017

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The industry in Tamil Nadu is feeling the impact of the water shortage even ahead of the peak summer season. Large units such as SPIC and Tamil Nadu Newsprint and Papers Ltd have even had to shut down a part of their operations due to water shortage.

A senior SPIC executive said such a dry spell is occurring after almost 140 years, and there is no viable way that industries can prepare for an event this rare and of these proportions. However, the company is exploring various options including recycling of sewage water and desalination to at least partially mitigate the shortage, the executive added. But all these would be hugely expensive.

An official at a petrochemical unit in north Chennai said: “So far so good, but we do not know how we will manage in the coming weeks.”

Large chemical and petrochemical units in the Manali area of north Chennai have begun to feel the pinch. Pipeline supply has been cut and the units are using private tankers. Costs are on the increase and the bigger concern is reliable supply as the summer progresses.

S Ilanahai, President, Chemical Industries Association, said that apart from Madras Fertilizers and Chennai Petroleum, which have their own sewage water recycling facilities, there over 20 large chemical and petrochemical units in Manali. They need about 20,000 kl water daily. That is about 200 tanker loads of water which they buy at about ₹90 a kl.

But as the shortage worsens in the coming weeks, costs will increase and supply will become less reliable and consistent, it is feared. The Manali Industrial Association is considering setting up a desalination plant on a build-operate-own basis for supplying water to industries. But this is a long-term project and the concerns for the current season remain, said Ilanahai.

An executive in another petrochemical unit said Metrowater, the public sector utility, has written saying it has cut piped supply by half. But, the cut is closer to 70 per cent.

Rafeeque Ahmed, President, All India Hides and Skins Tanners and Merchants Association, said the tanning industry clustered in Vellore district is mostly dependent on ground water and nearly 70 per cent of the water is recycled. While the units are making do with the supply now, it may not hold in peak summer.

The State government has enforced a zero liquid discharge policy and water recycling for industries. This has helped to mitigate the impact of water shortage in some sectors but with absolutely no water flow, even recycling has its limitations, as at least one-third of the water has to be replenished.

M Ponnuswami, Vice-Chairman, CII - Tamil Nadu, said a long-term solution is necessary. Recycling sewage water for industrial use is a viable option that needs to be implemented in all the municipal corporations in the State.

This will help to bring down the pressure on fresh water use by industry, he added.

Published on March 12, 2017
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