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“Financial hurdles if removed will ease the growth of water treatment sector in India”
In conversation with Sustainability Outlook, Dr. Sreedharan Suthakar, Managing Director at Aqua Designs India Pvt. Limited, shares his thoughts on the trends, outlook and challenges for water treatment sector in India.
What is the current state of water treatment sector in India? What are the factors impeding growth of the sector?
The major issue with the water treatment industry at present is low capital infusion. Infrastructure growth has not been as expected and there has been stagnation in terms of uptake of water treatment projects. With little or no investment happening in the sector over the last two years, the industry hasn’t really done very well. The government has initiated many projects which include water treatment and supply such as AMRUT scheme, smart cities project and are likely to attract large investments to this sector. As technology providers, we are hopeful that the next few months will witness accelerated investment in the water treatment sector in India. Apart from these, waste to energy conversion, desalination, etc. are also some areas of importance for the water treatment technology sector. Over the last couple of years large companies have been closing their operation in India primarily due to no or slow growth, financial issues associated with the low cooperation of the banks, reduction in the credit limits and increased collateral requirements. However, hopefully this slack period would soon come to an end with accelerated investment in the sector.
Have you seen significant positive impact to the sector from recent mandates such as the Zero Liquid Discharge in Ganga Basin?
According to me, the Ganges cleaning project induced the need for industries to go for Zero Liquid Discharge but unfortunately only very few companies have come forward to set up ZLD units.
|The lack of willingness by industry due to high costs is impeding the uptake of the ZLD concept and strict enforcement is the only way to achieve it|
Even in the municipal segment, only 2 or 3 pilot ZLD projects have come up. It will take around 2 to 3 more years for industries to take up ZLD. The authorities have become stringent and industries have got closure notices thereby creating pressure to undertake action. However, only few companies have the capital to install ZLD units and hence the expected results have not yet surfaced. We have commissioned more than 200 ZLD plants all across India but the industries are doing so only because of the strict regulations. The lack of willingness by industry due to high costs is impeding the uptake of the ZLD concept and strict enforcement is the only way to achieve it.
What are the three biggest opportunity areas and the major roadblocks for Aquadesign?
We at Aquadesign are focusing on large industries such as power, mining & metals and oil & gas. These industries are potentially high opportunity pockets for us especially for Zero Liquid Discharge. The Government of India with its various schemes like AMRUT, Clean Ganga Programme, has shown its vision to strengthen the municipal water sector and thus that’s also an area of focus for us.
Water scarcity all across the country is also likely to open the doors for desalination. Industries are looking at desalination as an option because they are major consumers of water and the lack of support from the state governments and central government for the continuous water supply leaves them with no option but to undertake desalination of sea water for their use.
However, these initiatives would not lead us to the desired results if the financial roadblock is not removed. The problem of low investment is one major challenge. Low financial support from banks has led to the slack period hence I believe mechanism to ease the process of accessing finance is required to increase the growth of the water treatment sector. Financial roadblocks if removed would catalyze the growth of sector and accelerate the uptake of measures to ensure sustainable water and energy management.
What is your outlook for India’s water treatment sector?
The population of the country is growing and there is an increasing stress on its water resources. The piping networks of the country are old and far from being robust. Leakage of water from the network being as high as 50-60% is aggravating the problem of the already water stressed nation. Even the new pipelines that are being planned are going to potentially lose 10-20% water in the process of transmission. A lot is being done to ensure that the resources of the nation are managed properly but strict implementation and monitoring is the only
|A lot is being done to ensure that the resources of the nation are managed properly but strict implementation and monitoring is the only solution|
solution. It is imperative that the information gaps are plugged, financial hurdles are removed to ease the uptake of appropriate actions by the stakeholders. There is a long way to go but I believe in the coming months a lot of activity will be seen and everything is likely to fall into place.