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How Tamil Nadu textile processing cluster saved 2.5 Million litres of fresh raw water per day : Inspiring story of collaborative growth

    by Team Sage Sustainability

    In conversation with Mr. Suresh Manoharan, Secretary – Perundurai SIPCOT Textile Processors Association and a member of the Indian Texpreneurs Federation (ITF). A story that is about the spirit of problem solving, collective action and environmental ethos. Even though the driver is the legislation, this can potentially move in the direction of circular economy.

    Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) evolved as a potent legislation that will have far reaching impacts on securing water bodies in India. Perundurai SIPCOT Cluster is a front runner in taking ZLD legislation in letter and spirit. This single legislation if implemented well as is done by the Perundurai SIPCOT cluster can heal the water scars of this country.


    Zero Liquid discharge in effect implies that no one industry has a right to release one drop of water into the rivers/water bodies or into the ground. This legislation is a game changer as it assures that pollutants are caught at source, materials are recovered and disposed of without any water pollution. It means every industrial unit with a wet process has to have an Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP) that ensures entire industrial effluent are collected and treated. However, this in effect also means each industry needs to invest in a filtration and recovery plant, and as many industrial units are old and prior to this legislation all effluents made their way to the nearest river or water bodies. 

    Perundurai SIPCOT Cluster

    The Perundurai SIPCOT Textile cluster is spread around 2850 acres, located in Erode district, Tamil Nadu and landlocked between Tirupur and Salem. Perundurai SIPCOT Textile Processors Association (PSTPA) is the trade association (cluster) representing nearly 50 textile processing units.

    The industries in the cluster include:

    ·Textile processing

    · Leather processing and

    · General Industries

    The association directly employs around 5,000 people and indirectly provides employment opportunities to around 25,000 people.

    Implementation of ZLD in Perundurai Cluster

    In the year 2005, when textile processing industries in Perundurai SIPCOT cluster was asked to implement ZLD based ETP, there were no precedence anywhere in India or in fact anywhere in the world. Typically, when somebody wants to establish a spinning or knitting or weaving or garmenting industry, there are a number of players already in market, both within India and overseas. It is easy to study them and replicate them here. But since ZLD based ETP was not there anywhere, it was bumpy ride for textile processing industries in Perundurai SIPCOT cluster. Even international consultants brought from overseas had no experience in ZLD in our setting. So, industries were forced to invest in new technologies at industrial scale on a trial basis. Many trials failed and industries burnt their fingers financially.

    Co Benefits- Environmental Ethos and moving towards Circularity

    Mr Manoharan suggests that the ZLD process is a win-win for the long term in every possible way. This reduces fresh water demand as water is recycled and solid residues that come out of ETP are put into use. ETP sludge being the first one, it is very high in calorific value and can be used by the cement industry as an alternate fuel.The second residue category is usable salts, and an astonishing 70% salts are recovered as usable, which goes back into the textile processing.

    Now finally the third residue is mixed salts, which are un-usable. That too this cluster is trying to work on recovery partnering with TNPCB and CPCB for which trials are in process for the last one year.

    Understanding around ZLD

    ZLD may have slight variations in how it is understood. In India, some people may understand that as long as no discharge comes out compliance is in place, but it should not mean that one keeps on pumping high TDS liquid back into the ground. 100% water recovery does not happen as water is used in the process. So there is a net 10% fresh intake of fresh water for the process but with other RWH systems in place this single legislation has the potential to heal the water pollution in India.

    In the year 2010, due to pressure from Greenpeace International, China was forced to commit to ZDHC (Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals) by 2020. Their commitment was that they will continue to discharge treated textile effluents into water bodies, but without any hazardous chemicals. In 2020, whether it has been achieved by China, remains a question. 

    On the other hand, textile processing units in Perundurai SIPCOT cluster implemented. ZLD in the year 2007 itself wherein not even a single drop of industrial effluent is discharged anywhere. Mr Manoharan says “we are the first textile cluster in the entire India to implement ZLD.Moreover, we are more than a decade ahead of our neighbouring international competitor.”

    Ultimately looking back now wherein on daily basis 2,50,00,000 litres of water is recovered from textile effluent and reused, thereby avoiding that much amount of fresh raw water withdrawal from water bodies, it is worth every effort spent on this incredible the journey of achieving ZLD. Mr Suresh Manoharan suggests that the power of collective action and collaboration helped in near perfect implementation of ZLD in the cluster. The diligence and responsible measures taken by the Perundurai SIPCOT Textile Processors Association in managing industrial effluent and solid waste is a true story of ‘Lead by Example’ and we are sure this will inspire more organisations and clusters to follow suit!

    Interviewers: Dr Shashi K, Abija N.