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Neighbour's waste, farmer's wealth

CHENNAI: Jun 01, 2017

CHENNAI: A mid acres of parched lands at Poomalaikundu village in Theni district is an oa sis where nature reigns in its full glory. Here, vegetables g row all-round-the-year, thanks to Ambothi, a 60-yearold who uses waste water from houses in the village to keep his land fertile.

Ambothi says it was his son, A Selvan, who came up with the idea of using waste water from homes to irrigate their one-acre land, after rearing of crops became difficult due to the failure of monsoons. "I decided to try growing crops with the water that is discharged from homes, water that is used for washing and bathing but not toilet discharge,'' he says. Five years ago, he convinced the villagers to allow him to transfer the grey water from their homes to his land, for which he laid a pipeline for a distance of about a kilometre. Ambothi spent about `1 lakh to lay the pipeline and construct two 20ft x 20ft tanks, each 15ft deep, to store the water. He uses water from about 450 houses in the village.

The water is collected in the two tanks, which fill up to at least 5ft every day. It is then pumped with the help of an electric motor to channels made in the plot. "The water that flows out is clear as the sediments settle down," he says. "I have been cultivating various crops, including tomato, brinjal, chilli, okra and various types of gourds as water is not a problem for me.I have been been reaping better produce than before,'' says Ambothi, adding that he uses fertilizers like potash only during the early stages of cultivation and that the use of chemicals is minimal.

Allaying fears about impurities in water, Xavier Brittoraj, agriculture engineer in Dindigul, says, "Waste water does not affect crops at any cost, or the quality of the vegetables. Usually heavy metals and soft metals in untreated water settle at the bottom of storage tanks, while problematic sulphates, nitrates, arsenic and iodine get settled in the middle so usually the water at the top one-third does not cause any problem." The only issue that may be seen is farmers getting rashes or other skin ailments by coming into direct contact with the water during prolonged use, he said.

The rest of the villagers are happy that the waste water, which otherwise stag nates in open drains, is being carried away from their homes daily, and they don't have to bear the stench or suffer the menace breeding mosquitos. They did not think much about Ambothi's water plan until now when all raindependent farms are dry except his. Palanisamy , a villager, says he had at first ridiculed the idea, but is now awestruck to see the results. "The vegetables grown here also appear to be more colourful and bigger,'' says Palanisamy.