Bioethics in India: Proceedings of the International Bioethics Workshop in Madras: Biomanagement of Biogeoresources, 16-19 Jan. 1997, University of Madras; Editors: Jayapaul Azariah, Hilda Azariah, & Darryl R.J. Macer, Copyright Eubios Ethics Institute 1997.

81. Ethical Implication of Industrial Pollution on the Ground Water Quality At Tiruppur, Tamil Nadu, India

C. Thomson Jacob, Jayapaul Azariah, Paul Appasamy* & Gunnar Jacks**
Department of Zoology, University of Madras, Guindy campus, Chennai - 600 025
*Madras Institute of Developmental Studies, Adyar, Chennai - 600 020
**Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden.

"Protecting our Ground water for our children is a challenge we all must accept and struggle together if we are to succeed. The time for action is now"

- David F. Durenberger

The total amount of water on the earth is about 1400 million cubic kilometers. Of this, 97.5% is sea water. About 75% of the remaining fresh water is locked up as ice caps and glaciers, further about 24% is locked under ground as ground water (Franks, 1987). Ground water accounts for about 8 x 106 Km3 or about 0.6% of earth's total water resource (Michael, 1985). The contamination of ground water is insidious. It appears belatedly, once an aquifer is polluted it takes very long time to clean it up. It is preferable to guard against contamination of ground water in the first instance rather than to engage in long and expensive rehabilitation measures after the damage has been done (Sastry, 1988). The contamination of ground in India has been reported in Mathura in Uttar Pradesh (Rastogi and Gaumat 1990), Pali in Rajasthan (Gupta and Jain, 1992) as due to the location of dyeing and printing industries.

In Tamil Nadu there were about 17,000 polluting industries out of which about 700 were large units, 2200 medium ones and 14,000 small units. Out of these, 450 are large units, 1000 are medium units and 6,500 are small units which are in the red category or highly polluting industries (Hindu, 1997). Ground water contamination in Tamil Nadu was reported in Pallavaram, Chrompet, Ranipet, Pernampet, Vaniambadi and Tiruppur because of the location of tannery and textile industries. In the leather sector, the problem of dissolved solids persisted with several units recording 9,000 to 20,000 ppm. Similarly textile dyeing units in Tiruppur did not have a satisfactory arrangement to deal with TDS (Total dissolved solids) which stood at more than 10,000 ppm.

The present study was carried out in Tiruppur, Which is famous for its production of hosiery and knitting products. This textile city produces 90% of India's cotton knitwear. There are a total of 526 dyeing and 187 bleaching units, making a total of 713 water intensive industries thus placing severe demand on ground water resources (Tiruppur Dyers Association, 1995). The export of cotton textiles during 1996 reached an all time high of 11,080.36 crores against 8,399.70 crores in 1995 (HINDU, 1997). This small town has direct and indirect exports worth over 2000 crores. But the disposal of untreated waste water makes the surface water unfit for irrigation and also pollutes the ground water leading to environmental degradation (Appasamy, 1994).

Perception studies were carried out to assess the conflict between different user groups of people. The purpose of carrying out perception studies is to identify the conflict between groups and to resolve the conflict between them. The major concern with many ethical theories is to determine what is good and what is right. In addition, it becomes necessary if the ethical theories are to have any utility to strive towards what has been determined to be good and right. Once we decide that a system is correct then we should live by the conclusion derived by the system (Pierce, 1982).

Method of Investigation

The present investigation was made by using adaptable method for field investigation of Environmental perception (Whyte, 1977). Interviewing was conducted by asking the people various questions about their attitudes, feelings and beliefs. People were interviewed to obtain their perception and opinions about the advantage and disadvantage of industrialization in Tiruppur. The respondents were encouraged to explain the situation in their own terms and their responses were recorded verbatim. After a few such interviews, the following hypotheses were proposed and individual responses were recorded.

Apriori Hypotheses:


1. Noyyal River in Tiruppur is dead because of the inflow of Industrial effluent

2. Polluted ground water in Tiruppur can neither be used for industrial purposes nor for drinking.

3. The agricultural lands are converted into Industries.


1. Polluted water brings water born diseases like diarrhoea, typhoid, malaria, jaundice and allergies.

2. Usage of borewell waters leads to skin disorders like eczema.

3. Ginning, sizing and spinning of cotton leads to asthma.


1. Child labour is increasing in Tiruppur because of industrialization.

2. Cost of living is very high in Tiruppur

3. Infrastructural facilities are not growing at the rate of development

Construction of the Questionnaire

The questionnaire was prepared by referring to the environmental response inventory (ERI) of Mckechnie (1974). The scaled questions were put in the form of statements to which the respondents could show their degree of agreement or disagreement with the scale value. The scale used in the present study is a 5 point scale. The 5 points on the scale have been graded as (1) Strongly disagree, (2) Disagree, (3) Neutral, (4) Agree, and (5) Strongly agree. The questionnaires were printed both in English and in the regional language (Tamil). The question was administered individually to different groups like industrialist, workers, house wives, students, educationalist, and others.

Results and Discussion

I. Perception Study

The results of the perception study showed that the industrialist, workers, house wives, students, educationalist, and others agree with the fact (Table 1) that they are the group which pollute the ecosystem for their greediness. However it is surprising that they are still committing the same mistake of exploiting the nature with out any concern for the future generation. This attitude is ethically wrong.

II. Impacts

i. Ecological Impact

(a) Ground Water Pollution

The growth of industries and increased volume of industrial waste effluent, have led to the pollution of ground water in Tiruppur. It is significant to note that the level of certain physico-chemical parameters like EC, TSS, TDS, Cl-, SO4, BOD, COD exceeded the permissible level prescribed by BIS (1992) and WHO (1992) standards set for drinking water. The ground water is so contaminated that the industries themselves cannot use the local sources and they are forced to purchase water from outside. Hence both the households and the industrialists have been purchasing water for their daily need. According to Tiruppur Exporters Association, each processing unit spends about Rs. 1,00,000 every month on the purchase of water from outside Tiruppur. This leads to over exploitation of water as a natural resource beside ecological degradation of Tiruppur (Padmanabhan, 1994).

Table 1: Percentage Of Acceptance In Each Group

Hypothesis (%) Ecological impact Health impact Social impact
Groups 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3
Industrialist (50) 80 86 84 78 74 80 82 92 94
Workers (100) 85 88 92 89 70 88 90 92 87
Housewives (100) 70 93 95 97 62 94 92 97 89
Students (136) 79 93 96 88 69 96 93 96 93
Educationalist (54) 70 82 87 83 56 82 92 87 87
Others (60) 87 90 97 97 92 98 98 98 97

Table 2: Comparison of ground water quality in Tiruppur with reference to drinking water standards

Sl. No. Parameter Permissible limit (IS) WHO


Ground Water
1 Turbidity (NTU) 10 5 1.4 0.7 0.8
2 Dissolved Solids (mg/l) 2000 1000 10010 11994 6029
3 pH - - 7.4 7.6 7.7
4 Alkalinity (mg/l) 600 446 456 284
5 Chlorides as (mg/l) 1000 250 3218 4527 3006
6 Sulphate (mg/l) 400 250 561 534 578
7 Hardness as CaCO3 (mg/l) 600 - 689 826 689
8 Calcium as Ca (mg/l) 200 - 323 303 360
9 Phenolic Cpds (mg/l) 0.002 - 0.06 Nil Nil
10 Iron (mg/l) 1.0 - 0.18 0.36 0.15
11 Zinc (mg/l) 15 3 0.24 0.1 0.06

RG1 - Riverine ground water DG1 - Industrial bore well

DG2 - Industrial dug well BIS - Indian Standards for drinking water

(b) Agricultural Impact

The accumulation of dyes and salts in the ground water causes immense hardship to the farmers, having their lands close to the drainage water courses. Increased salinity has led to the accumulation of salts in surface as well as in ground water. Jacks et al., (1994) have pointed out that the discharge of chemicals in Tiruppur town, makes the ground water and surface water unsuitable for irrigation and domestic use. The high salt content (Table 2) and the dominant sodium ions rendered it unsuitable for irrigation, due to the exchange of Na+ in the soil zone, with Ca+ during the percolation of industrial effluent.

The textile industrial discharge eventually end up in the Orathupalayam Dam. The dam was constructed to arrest flash floods and was designed to irrigate 20,000 hectares of land. It's water is highly brackish (7000 mg/l TDS) (Jacks et al., 1994). Farmers reported that the water released from the dam damages the agricultural yield and makes the crop wither and die. The ground water quality in its vicinity, has resulted in the damage of the agricultural crops and caused skin disease, in those who used the ground water for bathing (Prabhakaran, 1994). As a result, farmers are prone to take legal action for damage to yields.

(c) Impact on Animals

Padmanabhan (1994) reported that the ground water resources are gradually depleting in Tiruppur because of continuous pumping. The contamination of well water and surface water by the indiscriminate discharge of effluent from dyeing and bleaching industries, is affecting, in a big way, the aquatic life in many places. The colouration of ground water and the large scale death of fish at many water bodies seem to justify the environmentalists contention that barring a few exceptions the industries do not take this matter seriously. "The Indian law on environment was "Contemporary" but suffered in implementation because of political expediency and administrative leniency". Even government shows less concern towards the conservation of the ecology of this area . The chief doctor in Tiruppur Government Veterinary hospital has stated that out of the total number of reported cases of cattle, pet animals, horses etc. for various complaints, 15% may be due to drinking polluted water of River Noyyal.

ii. Impact On Health

There is no life without water, but the polluted water poses danger to human life which it is supposed to support. It is estimated that the drinking water carrying disease causing agents kills five million babies annually and makes another one sixth of the world population ill (Jackson et al., 1986). The health report from the Tiruppur municipality (Table 3) indicated the fact that the health of the people in Tiruppur was affected because of industrialization resulting in respiratory disease, diabetes, diarrhoea, jaundice, dysentery

Table 3: Health Statistics Of Tiruppur

Cause Of Death
1. Heart Disease 110 143 139 229 165 48 157 167 97 164
2. Tuberculosis 44 49 13 96 62 57 66 88 84 73
3. Cancer 30 17 31 43 27 2 36 43 14 42
4. Respiratory 26 31 35 98 118 72 4 72 165 53

The water borne diseases and other diseases are prevalent among poor people. Since the public water supply is limited, the poor people are depending on the ground water available in the polluted area for their daily use. The water-borne diseases like diarrhoea, dysentery, typhoid were prevalent from the year 1984-1993. The Medical Practitioners in Tiruppur revealed that a number of people especially from the lower socio economic strata experience the ill-effects of environmental pollution in Tiruppur. According to them the ground water pollution may be the cause for diarrhoea, typhoid, malaria, jaundice, and other forms of allergies. Respiratory diseases are caused due to allergy and pollution, since Tiruppur is an industrial city dirt from industries and also from vehicular emission might be the cause of all health problem.

iii. Social Impact

The perception study showed that all the groups indicated the acceptance of increasing Child labour in Tiruppur. Recent study in India on the impact of child labour on industries showed that children are paid less and also put to more hours of work. The children surveyed gave clear indications of a marked disparity in wages. The highest paid child took home about Rs.30 a day and most of them spend their childhood earning a mere Rs.5 to 10 or even less a day. This would have adverse impact on the markets especially with increasing global concern, unless there is a strict legislation banning child labour in all forms. The small hands would continue to keep turning the wheel of the economy (HINDU, 1997).


The protection and management of ground water, one of the most valuable natural resources, is emerging as a major public concern in India. The present study clearly shows that the ground water samples studied in Tiruppur do not meet the drinking water standards. The water resources of Tiruppur have been depleted because of contamination by wastes. Once ground water is contaminated it is difficult to restore it to its initial quality. This calls for proper treatment, disposal and management of wastes. But the industrialists who are responsible for the deterioration of ground water purity have not initiated schemes to treat or manage the wastes because they lack social consciousness. Industrialists should be aware of the responsibility they have assumed for their chosen "lifeline".

The new economic policy has enhanced the export and import of goods in India. This policy which is supposed to enhance the growth of Indian economy, also increases the growth of industries such as textiles. It would not be ethical to sacrifice the future in the interest of the future generation to benefit the present. Rapid growth ultimately may lead to the degradation of environmental quality in a town like Tiruppur. The result of the present study reinforces the concept that indiscriminate use of the natural resources for the production of consumer items for economic gain is unethical. A survey conducted to obtain the public opinion on the theme of economy vs. ecology has shown that there is a conflict of interest between the consumer, common man and the industrialist.

A field survey conducted in Tiruppur revealed that the ground water quality in the Tiruppur is highly polluted. Unplanned growth of industries are responsible for the rapid deterioration of the environment of Tiruppur. Industrialists in Tiruppur are bothered only about the economical development and not about the health of the ecosystem. Unemployed youngsters are strongly attracted towards Tiruppur, which increases the population density and upsets the ecobalance of Tiruppur.

The improper management of industries has resulted in poisoning of ground water and soil. It has also led to the vanishing of the floral and faunal population. Ecorestoration of Tiruppur should be attempted through some green technology and pollution control measures. The present study suggests that after the textile effluent is treated initially using chemical methods to reduce the TDS concentration, (such as alum, ferrous sulphate, and poly-electrolytes) it should be followed by biological methods to reduce the colour, BOD and COD. Effective collection, treatment and disposal of industrial wastes can help to protect the ecosystem and ensure the sustainable development of Tiruppur.

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