All About Paper: The Life Cycle of the Indian pulp and paper industry

January 12, 2004

The pulp and paper industry is an environmentalist’snightmare. It is not difficult to understand why. It has aninsatiable appetite for wood and bamboo and can easily eataway a nation’s forests. It then uses huge amounts of anotherequally precious natural resource — water — to ‘cook andclean’ its raw material. Its use of water is so high that it putsall other water guzzlers to shame. To make its product ‘fairand lovely’ it puts in high quantities of bleach, which thenemerge as toxins in the huge quantities of wastewater andsludge it discharges. This effluent smells, and is suspiciouslycoloured. All in all, bad news.

But it is precisely for these reasons that any change for thebetter in this sector is good news. A comparison of the 1999and 2004 ratings shows that this polluting juggernaut isbeginning to mend its ways. Even more exciting is the possibilityof great news in the future. The rating shows that thisenvironmentally sunset sector can become a sunshine one.For this its leaders will have to do much more than whatthey are doing today. They will, so to speak, have to bite thebullet, to really show how Indian industry can be a truegrowthsector. How it can break free of the growth-withoutjobssyndrome that plagues it today.

There is a possibility to make the industrial growthmodel — that the world is seeking — work: a model thatenjoins the fate of small and poor landholders to the futureof large and globally competitive industry. This is a modelwhich uses the labour opportunities in the informal and agriculturalsector to exemplify what sustainable developmenttruly is — putting money and resources in the handsof the poor.