Pollution is a serious problem along India’s Noyyal River. The Noyyal River is a sacred river in Indian Tamil culture and this river once provided water for 20,000 acres of agricultural land. Two decades ago, areas near the Noyyal River used to be booming with coconut and mango groves. However, pollution caused by the textile industry brought this to an end. Fish in the Noyyal River are dying; the agricultural industry is in the verge of ruins due to the water pollution; and even worse, many local men and women are finding themselves unable to have children due to the toxins in the Noyyal River. However, one dedicated Israeli has decided to assist Indians in saving the Noyyal River and thus helping local Indian residents reclaim their livelihood.

According to Professor Yoram Oren of Ben-Gurion University, “Water pollution is a very serious problem, including because water from the Noyyal River is used by local farmers for irrigation. But now they can’t use the water, so it affects food production.” In order to solve this crisis, Oren has introduced an Israeli technology known as nanofiltration in India. It has been hailed as an excellent solution to water pollution problems in developing countries who can’t afford more expensive water purification methods. Pollutants known as effluents are filtered out of the water in the form of disposable cubes. Also, nanofiltration, unlike other water purification methods, does not strip essential minerals such as calcium from the water. Professor Oren is positive that nanofiltration can save the Noyyal River, but claimed that it would still be an uphill battle after years of water pollution.

Professor Yoram Oren asserted while visiting India, “Nanofiltration is a proven success in Israel. Here also it is possible to make dry cubes of separated effluents which can be disposed off in safe places. It is up to the government to ensure such a facility to dispose off the dry wastes. In Israel, the government has demarcated the dump yard and this has helped restore several water bodies. I come from a country known for effective preservation of its very limited water resources. When compared to Israel, India has adequate water but lacks the resolve to protect its natural resources. Ground water depletion is quite alarming. Indian laws are the best, if implemented properly, to prevent water contamination and industrial pollution. But the authorities must have the courage to implement it.”

Presently, India has laws on preventing this sort of water pollution by various industries, yet throughout Tamil Nadu, illegal garment dying operations remain open. The consequences of India not shutting down these operations fully have been disastrous for residents along the Noyyal River. Evidently, 30 to 40 Indian couples in the area of the Noyyal River visit one of the local hospitals daily for infertility treatment, which according to Dr S. Dhanabagiyam, is needed in majority of cases due to the water pollution. Water pollution reduces the sperm count in males while creating ovarian complications and hormonal changes in women that lead to fertility problems.

The water pollution has had a devastating effect on animals as well. As one local Indian villager complained, “As a boy, I saw our milch animals, especially cows, yielding a minimum of 10 calves. It is not the case nowadays and has had a cascading effect on the local economy. Most farmers have taken to making charcoal.” Another local Indian villager asserted, “First the land turned barren and then it (water pollution) caught up with the cattle. Now, we’ve become the victims.” Given this, local Indian farmers who live near the Noyyal River are very appreciative of any Israeli efforts to help save their river. As Prof. Yoram Oren stated, “I got a letter from a farmer in Tamil Nadu, thanking me for my efforts to rehabilitate the Noyyal, because he needs the water for irrigation. It’s very exciting to get this kind of response.”

By Rachel Avraham