Running a farm

Farm forestry can overcome the raw material scare

Published: Saturday 31 July 1999

Running a farm

Since the establishment of the first paper mill in 1832, the paper industry has been a pampered and protected one. The government has consistently helped industry exploit the country's forests and rural poor by supplying raw materials at unrealistically low prices. In 1981-82 for instance, the paper industry paid the Madhya Pradesh forest department Rs 0.54 for a length of bamboo, while the forest dweller paid a little over Rs 2.00 for it. But the fast-depleting forest cover has now led to a severe raw material crunch, leading to a revival of a long-standing demand from industry for captive plantations on state-owned forest land.

Industry leaders say the shortage of raw material is the biggest threat to the paper industry but few are willing to acknowledge their relative lack of initiative in promoting what can become a virtually inexhaustible source of wood for the industry and a good source of revenue for the farmers -- farm forestry. If industry is to compete globally, it needs an assured supply of wood. And farm forestry is undoubtedly its best option, socially acceptable, ecologically sustainable and economically viable.

Fouling the ecosystem

Poor technology means more pollution

The technology and management practices currently being used in India are obsolete in the global context. They are similar to those used in the 1950s-60s by the pulp and paper mills in developed countries like Sweden and Canada. Poor technology coupled with ineffective governmental regulations for controlling industrial pollution makes the scenario bleaker . Hence, the industry's poor environmental performance should not come as a surprise. The industry has been widely criticised on environmental grounds. For example:

cse estimates about 1,200-1,500 kg of chemicals are needed to produce 1 tonne of paper in India, of which, Greenpeace estimates 90 kg is chlorine gas and about 65 kg where chlorine dioxide is used partially. In the western world, it is 25 kg.

The average total organochlorine ( tocl ) discharge per tonne of paper produced from Indian mills is estimated to be 2-10 kg per tonne, while most developing countries aim to achieve a tocl level of 0.1 kg per tonne. At the most it is 1 kg. Furthermore, because tocl enters the food chain and does not degrade easily, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency was unable to determine any safe level for organochlorine discharges. But, in India, the pollution control board allows a discharge of 2 kg per tonne. Sadly, in India, not one state pollution control board has facilities to test tocl levels and, in practice, this parameter has not been used for monitoring by them.

There is another problem, that of disposal of solid waste. A conventional mill, which has a chemical recovery system, generates around 1,000-1,500 kg of lime sludge, 750-1,000 kg of fly and bottom ash and around 200 kg of other waste like chipping dust per tonne of paper produced. A few mills have installed lime sludge recovery systems, but nearly 1.5 tonnes of waste per tonne of paper produced is still being dumped by them.

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