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All about water use in industry (Download pdf)

Water fall-outs

Industrial water use has triggered off a host of problems

In developed and developing countries alike, competition among water users is increasing. Tensions are particularly high in water-scarce areas where domestic, agricultural and industrial water needs are pitted against each other. In developing countries like India, where every segment of the economy is growing rapidly, the conflict will become unmanageable if not addressed now. Even today most big cities in India are getting piped water from far-off places. This is putting tremendous
pressure on the local population whose water is being snatched to feed urban and industrial growth.
This practice, also known as the "zero sum game of water management", is one where authorities increase water supply to one user by taking it away from another. This practice almost invariably leads to discontent in the different parts of the country.

p68.jpg (3825 bytes)Industry-community conflict
A major outcome of increasing industrial water use has been the increase in conflict between local communities and the industry on issues ranging from water pollution to water scarcity. In areas where there is water scarcity, industries are under tremendous pressure from community and government alike to reduce water use.

Depletion of groundwater by industries, supply of water meant for irrigation to industries, preferential treatment given to industries by the government are some of the major reasons for the conflict between industry and community over water use.

Another major reason for this ongoing conflict is water pollution. Protest and public interest litigations have become quite common on this issue.

Water scarcity
It is a bottleneck for industrial development in the various states of India

In 2002, companies like Harihar Polyfibres Limited, Karnataka and the Indian Rayon plant, Nagda shut shop for a few days. Inducing them to take such a step was the non-availability of water.

Water scarcity is already taking its toll on industrial production. In summers, when most Indian rivers run dry, it is not uncommon to see companies closing shop.

In a study undertaken by the Confedaration of Indian Industry and the World Bank in 2003, to find out what constituted good investment climate in various parts of India, it was found that water availability is one of the major infrastructural bottlenecks companies in Tamil Nadu face. The study covered 1,099 manufacturing companies in four sectors - textiles, garments, consumer electronics and pharmaceuticals - in 10 states and listed water as one of the major bottlenecks for future industrial growth in the country.

Indian industry can no longer ignore water management issues if they are to grow and become globally competitive.









Wherever there is conflict, a commmunity suffers. So does industry

SIV Industries

One of the few integrated viscose rayon manufacturers in India, SIV Industries was established in 1964. It is situated upstream river Bhavani in Sirumugai village of Coimbatore district, Tamil Nadu. The mill used river water and discharged its treated effluent back into river Bhavani.

Villagers living downstream used the water for drinking, irrigation and other household activities. They lodged complaints such as discoloration of water, skin allergies and a decline in crop productivity due to the usage of contaminated water.

The Bhavani river agitation was marked with protests by the local community mobilised by NGOs - Bhavani River Protection Joint Council and Lower Bhavani Projects Ryots Association.
Following the wide-scale protests by the local community as well as the directives of the Pollution Control Board and the High Court, the mill invested substantially to upgrade its pollution control equipment. It imported technology from a foreign agency (Linde, Germany) specifically for effluent treatment. The mill also started discharging its wastewater into its own land for the irrigation of crops.

But this entire episode took its toll and the industry is currently not operational.

Sinar Mas Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd.

Sinar Mas Pulp & Paper (India) Ltd. (SMPPIL) was set up in 1997 on the Pune-Solapur highway near Pune, Maharashtra. The mill met its entire requirement from Ujjani dam. Since the imported pulp is dry, SMPPIL consumed a large quantity of water during its papermaking process and the treated effluent was discharged through a 12 km long pipeline into river Nira.

The local communities in and around the region were against the mill for various reasons. To begin with, the water from Ujjani dam was originally meant for irrigation of drought-prone areas. Secondly, there was the fear that usage of water by Sinar Mas would lead to water shortage for sugarcane growers in Solapur and Indrapur, which in turn would affect the sugar co-operative factories.

To make matters worse, the local community was also upset at the preferential treatment given to the industry by the government, namely, cheaper rates for tankers (it was alleged that the government was charging only Rs 3 per 10,000 litre tanker from the company whereas farmers and villagers had to pay about Rs 100 per tanker). The industry was also assured that they would be provided water from the dam for eight months. But villagers received no such assurance.

As a spillover of this conflict more than 20 cases were filed against the company in various courts. The company thereafter reduced its water consumption significantly and today it is one of the lowest water-consuming paper mills in the country. It took almost five years for the company to regain confidence of the local community.

Currently the mill is functioning under the name of Ballarpur Graphics Paperboards Ltd.

Grasim Industries (GIL) - Mavoor Unit

The Mavoor unit of Grasim Industries is situated on the banks of river Chaliyar in Kozhikode district of Kerala. The unit produced rayon grade pulp. The unit used to discharge its treated effluent into river Chaliyar. Over 200,000 people live on the banks of the Chaliyar and the discharge of effluents by the mill was one of the main reasons of conflict between the local
community and the mill.

Complaints of pollution of river, fish deaths and lack of adequate treatment facility at the unit began pouring in. There were also several health related complaints, such as high incidence of cancer in the region.
The mill failed to lay down a pipeline to Chungapally (seven km downstream) to discharge its effluents directly into the estuary area, as per its agreement with the state government in 1974. Several complaints were also lodged against the mill with the local pollution control board, and at various forums. Finally, due to prolonged public agitation in the area, on May 5, 1997, the government of Kerala formed a committee to study in detail the pollution problems caused by the industry and recommend solutions.

The committee made 28 recommendations after conducting a detailed study and interacting with the local community. The government accepted them and Kerala State Pollution Control Board gave time-bound directions to the mill in July 1998 to implement the recommendations within one year.

Instead, the mill decided it was time to close down. l


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