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ZLD unlikely to Decrease Competitiveness of the Indian Textile Sector but poses key Implementation Challenges

In conversation with Sustainability Outlook, Mr. Kishan Kumar, Vice President, Creative Dyeing and Printing Mills; Mr. P. K. Gupta, Owner, Shivam Devansh Fab Pvt Ltd.; Mr. Manish Gupta, Director, Richa Industries and Mr. Anuj Batra, Owner, Bee K Bee Prints share their thoughts on the risks, opportunities and challenges related to the Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) mandate for the textile dyeing units in the Faridabad- Ballabgarh cluster of Haryana.


Key Highlights of the Conversation:
  • The implementation of the ZLD mandate will have a mere increase of 1-1.5% on the end product cost and the business will not be hampered as much as it is being anticipated.
  • Manpower, land, finances are the key implementation challenges for ZLD
  • ZLD will create great opportunities for the industry by the reduction in competition from the non-complying small industries which use unsustainable technologies


What are the key water related issues in the Faridabad textile cluster?

Creative Dyeing and Printing Mills (CDP): Water scarcity is a problem for the textile industry in the Faridabad region. Sourcing of water from tankers is also not easy. With the demand increasing from our customers, the only option would be to reuse the water. Water pollution too is a major issue in this region because in the past the textile industries did not take the norms seriously and it is only since a few years that the standards are being complied with. The pollution control board norms require the textile industry to meet the TDS standard of 2100 mg/l but considering the fact that the groundwater itself has very high TDS levels, this is difficult to achieve.

Shivam Devansh Fab Pvt Ltd. (SD): Water Scarcity is a major problem in the region and with new units coming up in and around this area the groundwater level is expected to go further down and hence it is expected that water scarcity will be a major threat for the industry in the near future. It is the past performance of the textile industry that has led to the ZLD mandate as otherwise the discharge from the industry after proper treatment is fit to be discharged on agricultural lands.

Bee K Bee Prints (BKB):  The key problem is the high TDS level of the groundwater in this region which calls for the use of tankers by us to provide water to the boilers. Boilers can work properly only when the TDS level in the water is not very high or else the life and efficiency of the boiler reduces.

Do you think the ZLD mandate is imperative for addressing the aforementioned issues? What has been the textile industry’s reaction to the mandate?

Pictorial representation of ZLD value chain

Source: Sustainability Outlook

CDP: ZLD mandate is a good initiative for the protection of environment although had the norms been taken seriously in the past there would not have been any need for ZLD. Corruption, very little data disclosures and no compliance to the standards by the industry has created great challenge for environment in the past, hence ZLD although would add to the cost of production but would help the industry to become environmentally sustainable. Proper monitoring by the concerned authorities is important to ensure that the mandate is followed by all and the purpose of issuing the mandate is met.

SD: ZLD is a good initiative as far as environment is concerned, but we as a unit are skeptical about its monitoring and operation. There is a lack of skillsets which will most likely create major operational hurdles and how a Comon Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) will accomplish the requirement is a question in itself too. Only one CETP has been allotted to Faridabad while there are 3 to 4 pockets and all the units are dispersed. Monitoring of the treatment process is important too because the water shall be used for processing which needs to be uniform in quality, hence though ZLD is a great initiative but there are a lot of unanswered questions associated about its practical feasibility.

Richa Industries (RI): ZLD mandate is a good initiative for restoring water quality and ensuring sustainable production. There are two options to implement the mandate one being CETP and the other being individual treatment plant but there are a lot of associated issues because of which we would preferably go for the treatment plant in the unit itself.

BKB: As mentioned before, the industrial sector contributes very less to the total pollution moreover the policy is more like a guideline and does not provide any technical knowledge related to achievement of ZLD, also there is lack of clarity from the government side. Hence, it would be fair to say that ZLD is approachable but not feasible.

What impact will the ZLD mandate have on the wet processing costs as well as on the end product for the textile industry?

CDP: The implementation of ZLD can be done using the conventional approach involving biological treatment followed by RO treatment and evaporation which would incur a running cost of 70,000-75,000 rupees/day for a baseline of 10 lakh litre. The other option involves nanofiltration, which has a high initial capital investment of about 6-7 crores but does not require biological treatment, has a lower running cost and reduces the amount of manpower required. The production cost will increase by almost 6-7 INR by implementation of ZLD but this increased cost will most likely be absorbed by the exporters and hence not cause a major economic setback to the industry.

SD: The implementation of the ZLD mandate will have a mere increase of 1-1.5%  on the end product cost although the capital investment is high because there will be an improvement in the quality of water, reduction in the use of chemicals, colours and an increased processing efficiency. Hence, in totality there will not be much impact on the industry and the business will not be hampered as much as it is being anticipated.

RI: There will be an increase in the cost of production by as much as 15-20 INR/kg due to the implementation of the mandate. The process if divided into three parts that is, Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP), Reverse Osmosis (RO) and Evaporation will have evaporation contribute the maximum to the increase in cost. This increase in cost may hamper business and cause loss to the mills in the competitive market.

BKB: There is indeed a large investment required for implementing ZLD. The evaporation unit is the most expensive aspect of the whole setup and costs almost 60% of the total project cost. Irrespective of the high capital investment, we would preferably go for individual treatment unit.

In your opinion what are the key implementation challenges with regards to ZLD in textile processing industry?

CDP: Communication gap between the industries and the government is a major hurdle for implementation of any policy. Moreover the lack of coordination between the multiple governmental bodies like the need for too many approvals and permissions is a problem too. For example, if we construct pipes for the CETP, it will most likely involve the need to take a lot of clearances from different authorities which may not necessarily be a smooth process. The high number of service and technology providers in the market providing different technologies and options has created a lot of confusion which needs to be addressed as soon as possible, as it is a one of the biggest challenges to find the most appropriate technology option and implement it. Moreover, even when the treatment unit gets constructed, the mindset of the operator will continue to be a major barrier to proper implementation and operation and hence requires proper training and capacity building to ensure efficient utilization of resources. Time and financing is also a major cause of concern because the investment is very high and getting to do it in mere 12 months is a major task. Even space is limited and the fact that we intend to go for nanofilteration which alone requires 25 sq. km area, poses a great challenge in front of us to adequately implement the mandate.

SD:  The lack of skillsets is a major hurdle to implementation of ZLD. It is because of this that we would prefer to go for a CETP. Moreover, financing the project is a challenge in itself too, there is no subsidy to assist units to setup individual treatment plants and it is also very difficult to avail funds under the TUF scheme. A third party guarantee in this scenario will provide great assistance because although it is very difficult to upgrade an old unit, it is very important to do so to ensure sustainable production. So, broadly one can say that manpower, land, finances are the key implementation challenges.

RI: There are three main barriers to implementation of ZLD:

  • Space- almost 85% of the industries especially the ones located in the industrial areas don’t have enough space for adoption of new technology for ZLD.
  • Financing of the project- the capital investment for ZLD is very high and subsidies are available only for the clusters. Also, there is no policy for funding of individual treatment units or fast tracking the process of receiving funds from the financial institutions. Thus there is a need to have a clear roadmap for financing of ZLD.
  • Technology-the service providers are not well versed with the practical difficulties associated with ZLD in the textile sector and are hence are suggesting technologies which are not viable for the sector like the Membrane Bio-Reactor (MBR) which is best fit for sewage treatment and results in large amount of sludge.

BKB: The lack of knowledge of technology and availability of technical information with respect to ZLD is a major problem. Also, lack of clarity from the government and no technical guidance with respect to the mandate from the government authorities is a key implementation challenge.

Do you think a Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) is an effective option to accomplish Zero Liquid Discharge?

CDP: CETP is not a practical option for the Faridabad-Ballabgarh region because even if it is set up it will be at a minimum distance of 10-12 km from the main factory and construction of two pipelines, one carrying effluent to the CETP and the other carrying treated water back to the factory will not only be expensive but also time consuming. Moreover, the textile units are dispersed and construction of a cluster would require a minimum of 9 units which is a difficult number to achieve and hence the association is trying to reduce the minimum number of units required to 4-5. In a meeting of the association, we suggested that rather than going for a CETP a common evaporation unit should be set up. Considering the fact that CETPs in Tirupur and Panipat too were not a complete success, we are a little skeptical about it.

SD: The operation of the ETP in itself is very difficult due to the lack of skillsets in the operators hence although we are unsure as to how a CETP would function and get monitored.

RI: The capital investment required to laydown pipelines, the hassle involved to get permissions and clearances, the change in the slope beyond a particular distance and the fact that the industries in the region are dispersed is a problem for establishment of CETP in this region. Moreover, the construction of a CETP would require a minimum of 1.5 years and would hence not be feasible within the given timeframe. Furthermore, unlike Tripur which has textile parks, this region has different types of industries and hence varying effluent characteristics which is another reason we would go for individual treatment and not a CETP.

BKB: A CETP will not be a possible solution for the region because most of the units here are rented and rented units cannot go for a CETP, moreover the units are dispersed and hence we would preferably go for an individual treatment unit.

Do you see any opportunities provided by the ZLD mandate?

CDP: As there is an increasing demand for mills having ZLD irrespective of the increase in production cost we will hopefully not incur losses and the increased cost will be well absorbed by the exporters. Moreover, the low impact on the end product prices will ensure that the country does not lose its competitive advantage. The implementation of the ZLD initiative will also to reduce the gap between buyers and sellers and hence provide great opportunity to the industry.

SD: With the big textile brands increasingly going for units with ZLD, there is great opportunity for the industry in near future.

RI: The implementation of ZLD will create great opportunities for the industry by the reduction in competition from the non-complying small industries which use unsustainable technologies and are unable to implement the ZLD mandate.

BKB:  There is great potential for growth of the organized sector. The textile industry has a large scope in the domestic market especially with tele-marketing, etc., in the picture. There is great competition in the export market but with the reduction in competition from the non-conforming unorganized sector, the ZLD mandate will most likely enhance opportunities for the industries.



In continuation of our work in the domain of Zero Liquid Discharge, Sustainability Outlook has recently released "March to Sustainability: Zero Liquid Discharge", a primer for Zero Liquid Discharge in India, which describes the current scenario, illustrates the outlook for 2020 and quantifies the market opportunity with a focus on three highly polluting and water intensive industries, i.e. Textile (wet processing), Distillery (molasses based) and Pulp & Paper (large wood based).

To know more about the report click here or write to us at



Author: sustainabilityoutlook