Relocation and new technologies for electroplating industry in the temple city Madurai:

          Madurai, one of the highlights of south Indian temple cities and especially renowned for the magnificent meenakshi temple, is not only a famous temple city visited annually by more than 2 lakh tourists, but is also the pulse of Tamil Naduís industrial growth.
Situated on the banks of the river vaigai and planned in the shape of a lotus, Madurai is the second largest city in Tamil Nadu with a history that goes back to nearly 2,500 years. At the same time, it is one of the cities plagued with hazardous waste.
        According to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), the total generation of hazardous waste in India is estimated at 9.3 million tons each year, based on authorization applications. These estimates are quite conservative given the fact that a large number of hazardous waste generating units are in the informal sector and have not applied for authorization to emit hazardous waste. It is estimated that the actual quantity of hazardous waste is at least 40% more than the MoEF estimates. Of the total hazardous waste generated, almost 52% finds its way into non- controlled landfill sites/low-lying areas and therefore pollutes ground water and soil.
        Madurai has a large electroplating industry. The methods used in handling and disposing the spent chemical bath vary within the individual industries due to their historic evolvement. Common to all of them is the fact that electroplating effluents are amongst the most hazardous and dangerous pollutants leaving behind toxic heavy metals such as cadmium, lead, chromium, mercury and arsenic as well as highly toxic dioxin. In Madurai, these industries are located directly in the central urban area and every day produce 49000 liters of waste water and 1200 liters of sludge containing a high concentration of above mentioned hazardous metals, not to mention the emission of fumes. All this again gives rise to growing public complaints about the effluents and about the general traffic problems aggravated by the transport of the products. The electroplating industry in Madurai not only endangers the environment but also has a negative effect on living conditions.
       Consequently, about 100 electroplating units operating in the residential areas of Madurai city received a closure notice from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board. The Association of Electroplaters and metal Finishers of Tamil Nadu (EPMFAT) responded by deciding to relocate the industries to a well laid-out industrial estate outside the core city area. 30 acres of land about 12Km from Madurai were acquired for this purpose.
However, mere relocation of the industrial units will not guarantee survival of the industries because pollution control norms will have to be met and international competition is stiff. Therefore, it has been decided to set up a state-of-the-art, modern technology eco-friendly electroplating park and to implement pollution-free production processes. These includes waste minimization options and fully automated clean technology production as well as the implementation of a new sewerage and drainage system, an effluent treatment and a metal recovery system. These facilities will not only be state-of-the-art and environmentally-friendly models, but will also increase the competitiveness of Maduraiís electroplating industry. As a result, Madurai's local electroplating industries will conform to environmental law and will be more competitive on an international basis. Furthermore, these activities will ensure that in Madurai, also known as the Athens of the East, there will be a remarkable improvement in living conditions and the city will maintain its unique character and ambience.
        German development aid and the Central Electro Chemical Research Institute (CECRI) jointly provide technical assistance for this project. The Indo-German Technical Cooperation for aid programmes is represented by ASEM (Advisory Services in Environmental Management), a joint programme of the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) and the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).

 - V.Selvaraj for



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