Some key actions for the sustainable growth of the pulp and paper industry
What should be done
The pulp and paper sector must steadily move towards sustainable industrial development. Here are some actions which could help:
sourcing of wood: Although the 1988 National Forest Policy does not allow raw materials sourcing from gov ernment forests, the government has not made any plan to work with the pulp and paper industry to promote f arm forestry. The government continues to supply fibre resources from government forests. Despite the lack of government action, there are several companies like itc- Bhadrachalam and Andhra Pradesh Paper Mills Ltd which are trying to meet a part of their needs from farmers. Government agencies and private companies should learn from them.
wastepaper recycling: India today is importing wastepaper. As India's wastepaper collection is very poor, the government and paper companies should together develop wastepaper collection and recycling programmes.
long-term policy for fibre supply: The government and the pulp and paper industry must develop a long-term vision and programme for sustainable and environment-friendly fibre supply for the country. Plantations and development of fibrous resources are long-term investments and these investments will neither be made nor sustained unless there is long-term support for them.
pricing and sourcing of water: Freshwater consumption by Indian mills is high. Water consumption beyond an acceptable level should be priced a progressively higher rate. Most pulp and paper mills have a large amount of land. A calculation made for Sinar Mas-India shows that nearly 50 per cent of the company's current water consumption can be met through its rainwater endowment. Water recycling should also be encouraged.
PROCESS AND TECHNOLOGY
technological upgradation: The mills today work with a technology that is way below international standards which also results in inefficient resource utilisation and ultimately low environmental performance. The mills should invest in cleaner technology and the government should come up with a package of measures to facilitate this upgradation.
use of chlorine: The global debate on the use of Elemental Chlorine Free bleaching and Total Chlorine Free bleaching has passed largely unnoticed in India. Mills which have poor technology should not get into manufacturing high-brightness paper. Only firms with good technology and end-of-pipe treatment should make bleached paper. There should also be awareness schemes to promote the use of unbleached paper.
WASTES AND POLLUTION
wastewater discharge standards: Wastewater discharge standards should not differentiate between wastewater discharged in surface waters and wastewater discharged on land. At present, there is a substantial difference between the two standards. Most of mills, which discharge their wastewaters on land also discharge their wastewaters into water bodies, especially during the rainy season when the land is saturated and does not need wastewater for irrigation. There is heavy runoff from farms using effluents into water bodies.
avoiding land contamination: All mills which discharge their wastewater on land should monitor the soil characteristics and quality of crops grown on the land irrigated by the effluents. Though the productivity of the land goes up initially because of the availability of plant nutrients in the effluents, the land becomes unproductive after five to 10 years due to increased soil salinity. Soil contamination is difficult to reverse.
fiscal incentives: Hardly any company or manager is making an attempt to improve environmental performance beyond the regulatory standards set by the government. Companies see the meeting of these standards as the maximum effort they need to make. Fiscal incentives should be provided to pulp and paper companies which go beyond these standards.
deemed consent: The Central government should penalise state pollution control boards which do not take a decision on 'consent to operate' within four months of application. Many pulp and paper companies are today operating on 'deemed consent' because of no response from the boards.
The Green Ratings Project has been supported by the Ministry of Environment and Forests and the United Nations Development Programme.
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