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Tamil Nadu’s Perennial RiverThamirabarani Is Struggling for Protection

The river Thamirabarani, the perennial river of Tamil Nadu is facing the threat of pollution mainly due to its unhealthy surroundings.

Sreevidhya Rajeev/ Chennai, Dec 24 (BPNS)

The river Thamirabarani, the perennial river of Tamil Nadu is facing the threat of pollution mainly due to its unhealthy surroundings. Major issues faced by the river include the mixing of sewage, illegal mining, industrial pollution and dumping of plastic waste. Textile pollutants and paper industrial waste are other sources of pollutants.

Thamirabarani is one of the perennial rivers of India and the only perennial river in  Tamil Nadu. It originates from the Agastyarkoodam peak of Pothigai hills of the Western Ghats in Tirunelveli district and flows through Thoothukudi and ends up in the Gulf of Mannar at Punakayil. The river is about 128 kilometres (80 mi) long. Thamirabarani river acts as a major water source for Ambasumudram, Vikramasingapuram, Cheranmahadevi, Tirunelveli, Sankarankovil, Alankulam, Tenkasi and most of the villages of Thooothukudi District.  Tamiraparani  has six important tributaries, there are four tributaries in the left side are listed as : Servalar River, The Servalar Dam is across the river was  located in Tirunelveli District of Tamilnadu.

Gadananathi  River is flowing in the Tirunelveli district and originates from Agasthyamalai Biosphere Reserve. The length of the river is recorded as 43 km (27 mi).

Chittar River, It is situated at Courtallam hills of Tenkasi District in Tamil Nadu. The length of Chittar is recorded as 80 km (50 mi).

Koraiyar River is located in Tirunelveli and flows through Tirunelveli and Thoothukudi districts. The length of the river is 13.2 kilometres (8.2 mi). 

The other two tributaries are located on the right side which involves: the Manimutharu River, It begins on the eastern slopes of Western Ghats in Tirunelveli District. With a length of 9 kilometres (5.6 miles).

Pachaiyar River, The Pachaiyar River originates on the eastern slopes of the Western Ghats approximately 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) above sea level in the state of Tamil Nadu. The length of the river from its starting to its merger with the Tamiraparani is recorded as 32 kilometres (20 mi).

An increase in the number of industrial units on the bank of rivers has also affected the quality of water. It is surrounded by both small-scale and big-scale industries such as paper, textile, photographic, and state transport corporation workshops.  Textile mill mainly incorporates dyestuff, sulphates, sulphide, copper, zinc, lead, phenolics and wastes for the manufacture of paper and pulp. Oily wastewater from the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation Workshop at  Papanasam adds more pollution to the river.

According to earlier studies, the water quality is changed due to the entry of sewage and other domestic wastes into the aquatic system. In places such as Kurukkuthurai, Kokkierakulam, Velllakoil, Srivaikundam, Eral and Attoor, where there is a large amount of sewage, results to the water quality is entirly different from other sites.

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has informed the stretch between Pappankulam to Arumuganeri of the Thamirabarani (running over 80 kilometres) as polluted and has classified it as Priority-V, which necessitates monitoring of locations exceeding desired water quality of 3mg/l of BOD (biochemical oxygen demand).

According to the recent action plan published by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB), the Murappanadu village, which has a population of 1,556 individuals, directly releases 54 kilolitres per day (KLD) of untreated sewage into the river near the drinking water pump house.

The report says at least 44.313 million Litre per Day of sewage water, including 31.91 MLD from the Tirunelveli Corporation, is being discharged into the river. The Tirunelveli Corporation treats 24.2 MLD of sewage waste, the report claims.

The TNPCB report also affirms that even though 145 industries lie on either side of the river in Thoothukudi district, there has been no discharge of industrial trade effluents into the Thamirabarani. The river runs by 214 industries in Tirunelveli.

In 2019, tests of 27 river water samples revealed that the mineral contents of the water met with standards throughout, but seven samples including six from Thoothukudi did not meet BOD and DO (Dissolved Oxygen) standards. As per the Water Quality Criteria (WQC), to be safe for bathing, the water must have 5 mg/l of DO, less than 500 most probably number/100 ml of Fecal Coliform and 3 mg/l of BOD. The report notified, the water samples collected from Manimutharu (near the road bridge), Punnakayal (near the fishing harbour), and Eral (backside of MSV dumping yard) did not comply with the standards for BOD and DO, whereas Murapanadu, Srivaikuntam, Eral (Cherman temple backside) Author did not meet BOD standards.

Across the course of the river, the water samples collected at Punnakayal village where the river merges with the river had reported the highest level of BOD with 18.35 mg/l, which is six times the permissible level.

The river also supports wildlife such as the Nilgiri marten, slender Ioris, lion-tailed macaque, white spotted bush frog, galaxy frog, Sri Lankan Atlas moth and the great hornbill.

Besides the ecosystem services it provides, the river also has historical value for the people of the state. It is mentioned extensively in Sangam Era literature.

The Thamarabharani is of great importance to southern Tamil Nadu environmentally and historically, which is why the protection of the river was implemented to preserve nature’s gift for future generations to enjoy without paying the cost of our misbehaviours.