Executed at A cost of Rs 1023 crore, the project was a much felt need: the direct discharge of industrial effluents, the free mix of domestic sewage with the river water and using the river bed as a dumping yard for solid waste by the municipality caused serious damage to a precious water source. Tirupur the knitting hub of the world, was in crying need of water. The Tirupur Exporters’ Association requested the state for a reliable supply of 100-110 mld of quality water.
Took-off to schedule and delivered to plan
NTADCL was incorporated as a public limited company in 1995. The company was to supply 185 mld of water. The project took off to plan and NTADCL was hailed as innovative. The project appeared to be operating successfully. Way side villages, the municipality and industrial units have been receiving regularly good quality water. The social benefits were significant.
However, the smooth progress did not last long. Water-intensive textile units let out harmful effluents of dyes and chemicals untreated, affecting severely the water quality of the Noyyal River. The Supreme Court directed the dyeing units to set up effluent treatment plants (ETP) individually or a common effluent treatment plant (CETP) for a group of industrial units. The CETPs were unable to reduce the total dissolved solids. Many textile units closed down or defaulted payment obligations on water consumed.
At another end, those units that set up ETPs saved and recycled water and thus drastically reduced fresh water drawals. Several also resorted to installing bore wells on their own; the cost of water from such wells at less than Rs. 10/KL was much cheaper. An additional factor was the global recession of 2008 that severely impacted Tirupur; several units wound up.
Cumulatively these impacted NTADCL. While in the initial years, industrial units drew around 40 mld (way below the estimated 100 mld), it reduced progressively to 8 mld. The other two segments, the municipality and the villages, that were allotted 85 mld continue to draw the designated water in full; but then at prices much less than the cost of treatment. The original plan of industrial sales cross-subsidising sales to the other two segments did not thus materialise. As a result, revenues anticipated did not accrue; the company has been incurring losses and has to ask for restructure of debts.
Rich social benefits
But on the social side, the contribution of NTADCL has been precious. It has helped an entire industrial town assured water supply. Rivers and the water tables are much less polluted.
M S Shankar, chief operating officer of Mahindra Water Utilities, the BOT partner of the project, points with satisfaction to the project working well: “assets have been performing extremely well. Water losses incurred earlier have reduced substantially.”
The unique Tirupur water supply scheme will serve as a precious and invaluable model for industrial clusters spread over the country. Both industry and the community should appreciate the imperative to pay a fair price for supplied water circulated through such a great scheme.