The 2nd National Conference on ‘Moving towards making pulp and paper sector water secure and sustainable’ took place on June 23, 2017 in New Delhi under the aegis of CII, where a humongous gathering from the Indian pulp and paper industry, the Govt. regulatory bodies, and premier research institutions discussed the ways towards water secure future for the industry. In the conference, measures to reduce fresh water usage, adoption of suitable technology, roadmap for innovative strategies, collaborative solutions for water sustainability, etc. were discussed at length.
As an indispensible resource for the pulp and paper industry, water usage is facing tremendous pressure from both intra-company environmental activism and other concerned regulating agencies. Water has become insufficient to meet the need of this highly water-intensive industry, which is growing by 6 percent annually, resulting in temporary closure of mills in some parts of the country. The industry experts have claimed the paper industry to be one of the most sustainable industries in the world, considering the raw materials, viz. the wood from the trees, agricultural waste and recycled wastepaper. Even though the water consumption of the integrated paper mills has come down from 300 cubic meters to less than 50 cubic meters, the water still remains a pivotal component in paper making. What concerns the paper manufacturers is the acute shortage of this natural resource, due to which mills in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu witnessed discontinuance in recent times; the highly uneven distribution of rainfall in the Ganga basin, causing severe water scarcity in many parts of the country, is further making the paper industry worrisome.
With increased water scarcity of surface as well as ground water, the environmental awareness, social and regulatory pressure and emergence of stringent environmental norms, water conservation has become a priority agenda for the industry to sustain itself in the last few years. Today, in general, the fresh water consumption has come well below 100 m cube/ tonne of paper; specific water consumption in wood based paper mills is around 90 m cube/ tonne; agro based mills is 65 m cube/ tonne; and waste paper mills is around 18 m cube/tonne of paper, which was unthinkable in 1990s. But if we look at the growth of the Indian paper industry, the water consumption is expected to increase by 20-25 percent in the coming years. This calls for an appropriate strategy for the industry to become water secure and sustainable. It requires holistic and multi-dimensional approach involving process optimization and adoption of best practices, technological and ETP upgradation.
The conference, with its speakers having cogent knowledge on the subject, adequately underlined the water crisis issue along with suggesting probable solutions in the medium and long terms. The delegates desired an immediate need of a framework for the industry to outgrow the water related challenges whereby such framework would encapsulate all probable standards for the upgradation of process technology, innovating newer technologies for wastewater processing, and discharging effluents.
The Paper Industry, a Potential Flag-Bearer of ‘Make in India’
In his welcome address, talking on the undue criticism of the paper industry over the misnomer issue that it causes deforestation, Mr. Sanjay Singh, Conference Chairman & CEO, ITC PSPD said, “The pulp and paper industry faces hard criticism as people have this pre-set notion about the industry that it cut trees recklessly. Through this forum I may take the opportunity to inform people and reinforce my opinion that pulp and paper industry is one of the most sustainable industries in the world. Supposedly, this is the only industry for which the raw materials would never come to an end. If we look at iron, oil, copper, or aluminium, these resources will exhaust at some stage; while, on the other hand, trees, agricultural waste, or the wastepaper, which are the raw materials for paper industry, will never deplete. There is a deforestation myth attached to the industry, but people hardly are aware that 90-98 percent of our raw material comes from plantations. Moreover, for every tree cut, we plant three more trees.”
Mr. Singh also delineated on a number of ways where the pulp and paper industry has rather provided remedy to pollution related problems instead of aggravating them. He cited the tremendous pollution caused by wheat straw burning and how the agro-based paper mills has reduced immense pollution load by consuming wheat straw to make good quality paper.
Mr. Singh also underlined that one needs to use empirical data and undergo a comparative study of various industries while branding a specific industry environmentally unsustainable. He said, “What about the burgeoning electronic industry? Smartphones and computers, purportedly a substitute for paper, are fast penetrating our lives, generating huge amount of electronic waste, whose disposability is extremely difficult if not impossible. I would say the paper is far more sustainable without any hazardous waste, and that people should use it guilt-free. While the Govt. of India also talked about the paper-less economy, we would like to request the PMO to give us a chance to convince that paper industry is a sustainable industry.
How the pulp and paper industry may give a fillip to the ‘Make in India’ program, Mr. Singh said, “The pulp and paper industry is one such industry which can become a flag-bearer for the ‘Make in India’ campaign as it can provide immense opportunities to the farmers for plantations of trees in the rural sector. Generally, the growth of the pulp and paper sector is related to the GDP growth of the country; if the GDP growth is faster, the pulp and paper sector will also grow; it has a direct correlation. And, if we look at the efforts of the Govt. to improve the economy, we will be one of the fastest growing economies within next 5-10 years.”
Speaking on the conference-relevant topic, viz. water sustainability of the industry, Mr. Singh said, “Looking at the water scenario of the pulp and paper sector, we can easily discern that the industry has curtailed the water consumption from 300 m cube and has come down to 50 m cube in the last 30 years. Even some of the independent mills have become zero-liquid discharge (ZLD)!”
“The subject which needs our quick attention is the source of water. This year has been one of the worst ones for the pulp and paper industry because of the temporary yet continual shutdowns of paper mills in the South India, reason being the acute water scarcity. It is the high time when we understand the ways to reach the ground as well as river water in a radical manner. Even though we are a sustainable and responsible industry, we still need to make sure how to grow at a rate of 7-8 percent. For that to happen, we can grow trees and get trained manpower but access to water is beyond the bounds of our control. During the recent water crises in Tamil Nadu, the Govt. said that water is first for human consumption. I would request people to make sure that you have adequate water before taking up a new project or expansion.”
The Paper Industry, a ‘Make in India’ Program in Itself
Dr. Vandana Kumar, Joint Secretary, Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion, Ministry of Commerce and Industry (GOI) said, “The paper industry has indeed grown with the improvements in the packaging and newsprint sectors. We have a robust industry of about 850 players, which contributes about INR 56,000 Cr. It’s a huge ‘Make in India’ program in itself. And, with the growing youthful population, irrespective of what people says (Go paperless or less paper) the need for paper in the foreseeable future is only going to grow.”
“However, there are numerous challenges; making it sustainable and water secure is definitely one of them. The polluting tag that it carries, really need to be worked upon.”
Remarkable & Visible Improvements by Paper Industry in Water Consumption
When I was asked about the industries causing the highest amount of pollution to the Ganga basin, pulp and paper industry was one of them. I was told that this was the most water intensive industry, but later I learned from CPCB that pulp and paper industry has become one of the industries where major improvements has taken place.
About 25 percent of groundwater lies in India. After independence, we needed green revolution and grains to feed millions of the population. Of course, sustainability has become a big issue for now. It is now important for all of us to get an awakening to the reality. A very important aspect which we need to keep in mind is the surface-water and ground-water interaction. We make a mistake by keeping them in silos.
The Paper Industry, No More ‘Highly’ Water Intensive
Mrs. Rita Tandon, Director, CPPRI, Saharanpur, in her special address of the conference, lauded the timeliness of the topic chosen as the theme of the industry, especially in the context of introduction of stringent fresh water consumption norms for pulp and paper industry and the issue of zero liquid discharge gaining momentum. “The Indian paper industry, in spite of having a rich profile of over 850 mills with 22 million of installed paper production, contributing significantly to the state exchequer and providing employment opportunities, is in serious image crisis. Slogans like ‘Save Paper Save Trees’ spoiled the image without realizing the fact that Indian paper industry does not use even a single piece of forest wood. In fact, our Indian paper industry is unique in terms of using the diverse raw materials from farm forestry annually like renewable residues – wheat straw, bagasse, rice straw as well as waste paper. Utilization of these raw materials has not only helped improving the rural economy, but has also generated employment opportunities,” she said.
Mrs. Tandon also praised the industry’s efforts in optimization of water usage and the implementation of charters related to water recycling and pollution preventions. She said, “Yes, the Indian paper industry had been highly water intensive, but it was true till few decades back. I would like to refer to the success stories achieved by some of the pulp and paper mills in clusters in Kashipur (Uttarakhand) and Muzaffarnagar (UP), which are located near the Ganga river basin.”
“Implementation of the ‘Charter for Water Recycling and Pollution Prevention in Pulp & Paper Industries’ in Ganga river basin has envisaged the upgradation of the status of pulp and paper industries in terms of process technology, practices and environmental performance, besides substantial reduction of fresh water consumption, wastewater generation and compliance with the prescribed environmental norms, to achieve desired level of environmental protection, zero effluent discharge to recipient river streams though interception, diversion and disposal of treated effluent for irrigation purposes and to meet objectives of the national mission for Clean Ganga. CPPRI (Central Pulp & Paper Research Institute) is proud to have been associated with CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) in drafting the guidelines, protocol, revised norms and implementation of the Charter.”
“Other than technological interventions, simple steps like mandatory installations of sealed flow meter, running hours meter on bore wells and inlet pipe line of different process section, and identification of the benchmark related to fresh water consumption in each category for some of the approaches have been taken up. This has helped the mills to significantly do the reality check on the actual and required fresh water consumption as well as hope for increasing the recycling and reuse of treated effluents.”
“Finally, I hope the conference will help in preparation of the roadmap to achieve water security and come out with a solution to improve the competitiveness and environmental sustainability of the Indian paper industry.”
Implementation of CPCB Charter by the Industry, a Success Story
In his special address, Dr. Madhusudhanan M, Additional Director, CPCB said that the ‘Charter for Water Recycling and Pollution Prevention in Pulp & Paper Industries’ which started in February 2015 has ended in March 2017 as per the target. “The Charter program was based on three focal points. First of all, the program was directive to the Ganga basin states for implementation; secondly, it totally banned the black liquor production without CRP (chemical recovery process); and finally, it asked the industry to install the automatic continuous monitoring systems. These three were our major points to focus on the Ganga basin industries,” he elaborated.
Coming to the success of the program, out of 89 pulp and paper industries in the Ganga basin states, he said, “There were around 59 industries we could closely monitor; 10 units out of them converted into zero liquid discharge industries and few even established their individual CRP systems. It took almost two years to implement the program. If we convert this into a national program, how much time industries may require for implementation, is one of the challenges.”
“The adequacy of the existing ETP and to convert it into the tertiary level treatment for achieving the National Charter is again a challenge for the technocrats. Training the people for implementing the OCMS (On-line continuous monitoring system) is a tough task, which requires the industry and the associations to know how to take care of the implementation of the OCMS program. The industry and technocrats have to educate individual mill owners the use of the recovery of the water. I hope that the institutes and the association along with the industry will definitely welcome and achieve the required charter implementation at national level.”
With Close Cooperation b/w the Govt. and CII, National Level Standards in Water Usage is Attainable
An important element that came out from the discussion was source protection and source remediation, which is very important for us to go forward with. We need to ensure that the fresh water source (ground or surface water) remain protected; we use them in a sustainable manner and make sure they get remediation on time. CII will continue working very closely with the Govt. as well as the industry in making certain smooth transformation in terms of application of national level standards.
I think it is not about Karnataka and Tamil Nadu alone, but even parts of Ganga basin are facing the water scarcity. The groundwater table is actually going down and it is really a cause for concern.
Three main drivers of water management are water regulation for ground water, a market place to report industry’s performance to the stakeholders and shareholders, and third driver is the crowd check. Due to occurrence of the crowd in many parts of the country, lots of things have moved and this comes back and takes us to the point that it leads to shut down operations.
Easing of Water Withdrawal Guidelines
Mr. K.C. Naik, Member Secretary, Central Ground Water Authority, Govt. of India, in his address, spoke on salience of CGWA, its guidelines for the withdrawal of ground water, the issues that the industries are facing regarding CGWA guidelines, etc. He said, “As you know, the Central Groundwater Authority was constituted in 1997, mainly because of the falling groundwater level in many parts of the country. In 1999, it was decided that all industries would have to take NOC for operating and withdrawal of groundwater from Central Ground Water Authority. Initially, it was for the new industries who were coming up or the ones which were going for an expansion. Subsequently, the existing industries before 1997 were also asked to take the NOC from CGWA for withdrawal of groundwater.”
“Thereafter, the problems started coming from the industries that the guidelines needed to be revised as there are certain points which they cannot meet. Considering this, CGWA decided to revise its guidelines and make it simpler and user-friendly from the last (2015) guidelines. Hence, we consulted many State Govt. organizations, industries and CII to look into the matter and work for the betterment of the industry.”
Talking on the issues with CGWA guidelines, Mr. Naik reassured the industry that these issues would be taken up in earnest and suitable alternatives would be explored. “Few days back, we had a meeting with CII and Indian Paper Manufacturers Association (IPMA), where the paper manufacturers were asked to address the problems with the existing guidelines. They represented two main issues. The first one was the difficulty they face in the reuse of water. According to the CPCB guidelines, the pulp and paper industry is supposed to reuse 50 percent of water, which is practically impossible because 85 percent of the water goes in the process itself. There is a little scope of reuse of the effluent. Another concern was about the paucity of water. These were the problems which we have considered and we are definitely going to simplify it by picking up the suitable alternatives,” he said.