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When the Solution Becomes a Problem: Haryana’s ZLD Conundrum
The article looks into the challenges that the textile wet processing industry faces in implementing a government mandate to incorporate Zero Liquid Discharge into their production process and provides suggestions to enable smoother implementation.
The image of Haryana as an agricultural state with lush green fields of wheat and rice is firmly etched in our collective psyche. However, it is a fact that the state has one of the most vibrant industrial sectors in India. This textile industry is an important contributor to the state’s impressive industrial growth. This key sector is currently grappling with the challenge posed by a recent government order which mandates integration of Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) systems into the wet-processing units of textile industry.
Haryana’s Water Crisis
“When the well is dry, we know the worth of water.”
We all know that Haryana is water-stressed but very few realize the gravity of the situation. The wells in the state are literally running dry due to the over-exploitation of groundwater via unsustainable ‘green-revolution’-era agricultural practices. The fast expanding industrial sector is only adding to the problem. The gap between water demand and supply has widened to alarming levels in the state as unabated pollution of existing water sources through agricultural-runoff and industrial effluents further reduces water availability.
Realizing the crisis at hand, the authorities have mandated Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) which calls for adoption of practices to ensure complete recycling of the industrial effluent and concentration of the solute into a solid mass by means of evaporation by December 2016. While the intentions are noble, the decision serves as yet another reminder of the centralized top-down decision-making process in the country. The deadline has left many textile units in a pickle; the path to implementation of ZLD in wet-processing units has many practical challenges associated with it.
The key challenges are related to:
On the issue of technology, there are multiple ZLD technologies which cause confusion among potential adopters. The poor communication between authorities ensures that the lessons learnt by the Tirupur textile clusters, who were among the first adopters of ZLD (not entirely of their own volition though), has not been transferred to the textile industries of Haryana.
ZLD is capital-intensive. The CAPEX for ZLD is as high as Rs. 6 crores for a typical 1000 KLD plant, while the OPEX is thrice the amount for running the plant for just 6 years. ZLD would also entail a 6-10% increase in cost for wet-processing units, which would impact Haryana’s textile-wet processing unit’s cost-competitiveness in the short run when compared to the rest of the country where currently the ZLD mandate doesn’t exist. Smaller units would not be able to set up individual Effluent Treatment Plants (ETPs) due to their high costs. The need would arise for Common Effluent Treatment Plants (CETPs) which brings us to the third challenge, land.
Setting up of ETPs requires land. The textile units are short of land and land comes at a premium in the densely populated northern regions of India. CETPs would entail laying down of a pipeline network to and fro from the individual factory units to CETPs. This would require the approval of various public authorities such as the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and the various state municipal bodies. The approval process itself would take upwards of 1.5 years which makes the December 2016 deadline difficult to achieve 100% compliance in the current situation.
ZLD: A Problem? It doesn’t have to be one
We have seen the challenges of ZLD but ZLD does not have to be a problem. It is in fact a panacea, if we daresay, to the water crisis that the industries of Haryana face every day. It holds tremendous benefits in terms of resource conservation. It would drastically reduce industrial water pollution. And it also presents a business opportunity.
We know that the world is going green and businesses are tilting towards resource sustainability. Many international textile brands already have standards of resource use and sustainable manufacturing practices for their supply chain. Hence, textile units which are early adopters of ZLD techniques are likely to enjoy competitive advantage over their rivals who haven’t done so.
The Need for Better Policy
Policy has a significant role to play in making the future sustainable. Ultimately government support, encouragement and oversight are what would make or break this move towards ZLD by Indian industry.
The government’s support is required in the following areas:
- Governments, both states and the Center, can provide initial financing support to textile units to enable them to adopt ZLD without losing their cost-competitiveness. This can be done through a combination of incentives such as tax-breaks by government, soft loans by public sector banks and by incorporating provisions for ZLD support in existing government schemes and policies.
- Government support is also needed to fast-track the approval process for laying down pipelines for CETPs. Instead of going through a number of bodies, the government should set up a single window clearance system for granting clearances to such projects.
- Knowledge transfer is also of paramount importance. The learning from regions/states where ZLD has already been implemented should be transferred to other areas.
Finally, the most important learning from this exercise is that government’s decision-making should be more participative. Open, transparent and proactive communication would ensure that a panacea like ZLD does not become a bitter pill shoved down the throat of unwilling industries. It would be a great shame if industries feel that ZLD is an expensive problem to them. It is a rather a comprehensive and sustainable solution to the water woes of the industry.