Tamil Nadu industries

Price of progress

Print edition : June 22, 2018
Industries are a key driver of the Tamil Nadu economy, but they are also a main contributor to ecological damage.

IN the aftermath of the police firing on protesters in Thoothukudi (also known as Tuticorin) in Tamil Nadu, which left 13 dead, the nation's attention has turned to the Sterlite Copper unit in the city (which has been sealed following a State government order), the state of copper cathode production in India and the extent of environmental damage caused by industries across the State.

Tamil Nadu is one of the most industrialised States in the country. It accounts for 12 per cent of India's industrial output and 15 per cent of exports excluding software.

Industry not only plays a key role in the economy and job creation but is responsible for significant environmental damage through effluent discharge and release of air pollutants. The main industries are automobiles, leather, paper, chemicals, plastics, textiles, and cement. According to http://tnenvis.nic.in, exports from special economic SEZs in the State were worth Rs.82,717 crore in 2015-16.

SIPCOT, the State's industrial promotion body, has developed 19 industrial complexes by acquiring 27,000 acres, of which 20,806 acres have been allotted to 2,184 units (one acre is 0.4 hectare).

Thoothukudi, which is home to several industries, also has the dubious honour of having the second highest percentage of degraded land among Tamil Nadu's districts.

As of March 2017, 78,213 hectares, or 17.04 per cent of its total area of 4,59,054 hectares, were degraded, according to EnviStats India 2018.

Tamil Nadu has the highest fisherfolk population in the country and the second longest coastline, and Thoothukudi is among its major ports. Members of the fisherfolk community have been in the forefront of the protest against Sterlite, which has been accused causing significant damage to the neighbouring marine resources and contaminating the air and water in the vicinity of the plant.

The State ranks among the top in the country in the number of threatened wetland plants, birds, fishes and turtles. The sea water quality has also been badly affected in Thoothukudi, with below-ideal dissolved oxygen and biochemical oxygen demand levels and high total nitrogen levels.

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