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“Industries must have a water-master plan to walk-through the challenge of water scarcity”

In conversation with Sustainability Outlook, Dr. Mritunjay Chaubey, Global Vice President – Environment & Sustainability, UPL Limited shares his thoughts on sustainability in Indian Industries, specifically water sustainability – its challenges and potential way forward.

What are the various kinds of sustainability practices undertaken by UPL in India?  

UPL is a very environmentally conscious company. Among the initiatives undertaken at the product-level, recently UPL launched a new water-absorbent product, named “Zeba”. Some of its best features are: firstly, it produces maximum yield in very less water consumption; secondly, being water-absorbing and less-water consuming, it finds good relevance for drought affected, water-scarce regions or places where the monsoon rains are not experienced much. Apart from product-level initiatives, we also successfully achieved zero-water discharge technology in our Ankaleshwar manufacturing plant. Further, we shall be implementing the MBBR (Moving bed biofilm reactor) technology soon in our waste water treatment systems, rain water harvesting operations -- eventually aiming to declare our manufacturing locations as “zero-water sites”.

Could you elaborate on the sustainability goals for UPL Limited?

We aim to reduce 25% of the environmental footprint of our company in the coming 5 years. UPL is already at pace with this strategy. “Environmental footprint” implies that specific energy consumption should be reduced by 25%; CO2 emissions per tonne of production should be reduced 25%; similarly waste generation and water consumption per tonne of production, should each be reduced by 25% in our plants, by 2021.  

At UPL, we believe that sustainability is the best opportunity for business to drive smarter innovation and profitable growth. Sustainability ensures a fair society, living within environmental limits and creating a sustainable profitable business

Are there any specific measures being undertaken by UPL to promote water sustainability?

All manufacturing plants of UPL would soon be 100% dependent on rainwater.

There are two specific areas we are currently paying close attention to for ensuring water sustainability. First is - rainwater harvesting and re-using that water for manufacturing processes. Already all our plants are in the informed loop and they have been rigorously practicing it. Our inference for rainwater harvesting is not a narrow process; but a comprehensive one since it involves not just capturing and storing the rain water from rooftop areas, but also treating the water before reusing it in manufacturing processes. Our near-term plan is not to consume any water from outside - whether from tanks, ground water or even surface water. Our manufacturing plants would soon be 100% dependent on rain water. Another advantage with rainwater harvesting is that the treatment costs are very less as rain is very pure and only a small treatment process and storage tank is required.  Second area which we are currently focused at is having a surface run-off management system, especially during rainy seasons. Since UPL is a chemical manufacturing company, we expect a lot of water contamination issues. Hence, controlled drainage facility is a good practice which we are adopting, not just to check the quality of water but also ensure sustainability in water use in our manufacturing processes. 

How has the wastewater treatment market evolved in India (especially in the industrial segment)? What is the market potential of this segment in India?

Total market potential for waste water treatment market in India is USD 4 billion. Out of this, industrial wastewater treatment market’s potential is estimated to be 25 %, i.e. 1 billion US dollars.

Wastewater treatment market within industries is still at a developing stage in India. According to a recent report published by the Centre for International Trade and Development; the total market potential for waste water treatment market in India is USD 4 billion. Out of this, industrial wastewater treatment market’s potential is estimated to be 25 %, i.e. 1 billion US dollars; while municipal segment has the largest potential, as 60% of the total opportunity. Also, the industrial segment’s potential for treating wastewater is expected to be growing at 15-20% annually in India.

What are the key drivers which are helping the growth of industrial segment for wastewater treatment?

There are three primary factors which are positively driving this segment: first, change in mindset towards environmental issues and sustainability concerns; second, government regulations such zero discharge mandate for certain sectors and finally, NGOs are also playing a good role in helping growth of this sector. These organizations have been increasingly interacting with the corporates and have also been actively putting across several litigations in public sphere, in cases of industries indulging in fraudulent practices for wastewater treatment by charging incorrect or high prices; or rivers in a particular region getting alarmingly polluted.  Thus, by such litigation and active demonstrating processes, NGOs have been playing a huge role for driving Indian industrial segment’s growth for treating waste water today.

Which industrial sectors have the maximum potential for waste water treatment in India?

Textile industry, followed by chemical manufacturing and pharmaceutical industry have the maximum potential for waste water treatment in India.

This is difficult to answer as the situation is not very good right now in India, as far as industrial waste water treatment is concerned.

In terms of future market potential, the textile industry followed by the chemical manufacturing industries and the pharmaceutical industries – these three currently have the maximum potential for waste water treatment in India.

Which three levers if changed would positively help develop water sustainability market in India?

First lever should be – regulation for mandatory zero discharge from manufacturing plants. If we come out with this regulation, which is possible, as several companies including UPL have already been doing it ; development process of water sustainability market can definitely be accelerated  in India.  Second, tax relief and some incentives should be provided by the Indian government. Lastly, target ratings for specific water consumption in every industries should be necessarily developed, which would positively help develop the water market in India.

What’s your outlook for water sustainability in Indian Industries?

Setting targets for specific use of water, energy and waste generation per tonne of production is very important.

Industries must have a water-master plan to walk-through the challenge of water scarcity. This implies that it should be clear to an industry how they are carrying out their processes i.e. how much water is being consumed, how much wastage is being released and which measures they are undertaking for water sustainability. Secondly, setting specific water consumption targets is very important. For last 20 years, I personally feel that for an industry to be ensuring its growth itself, it is very important to set its targets beforehand for specific use of water, energy and waste generation per tonne of production. All the misuse of raw materials, natural resources happen when the strategic planning is missing or it is not followed. Thirdly, commitments towards recycling and reusing of wastewater must be increasingly practiced by Indian industries. Lastly and most importantly, all corporates must think twice before establishing new factories or manufacturing plants in water stressed regions—they should a have a specific water master plan and be very careful with their water consumption aspects.


Author: sustainabilityoutlook