The government’s Ganga clean-up mission is facing a dire test, as it seeks to embark on a critical phase of the challenging task: Lack of effective, quickly deployable and economically viable technologies, which hold the key to success.
What appears to be a dry technical issue is actually a complicated problem. Industrial waste from over 700 “grossly polluting industries”, including the pulp and paper sector, has been a notorious source of pollution in at least five states through which the river flows.
Making them switch to a “zero liquid discharge” mode is a key target.
However, paper mills have told the government they can’t afford some of the measures mentioned in the charter circulated to them during recent consultations.
They, for instance, have said that in no country are paper mills subjected to zero-discharge norms.
Virtually all milestones in rejuvenating the sacred river – divided into short-term, medium-term and long-term phases — depend heavily on the use of technologies,
from zero liquid discharge to online monitoring. The big question is where to find them.
Paper mills, for instance, will require suitable technologies for “desired results without impacting their sustainability”.
However, a likely increase of 30%-40% in the cost of paper production, after accounting for investment in green technologies, make the goal of zero discharge “impractical in the present scenario”, assessment by the government shows.
The report notes the paper industry must “strive hard” to reduce effluents, despite having made some substantial improvement in recent years.
At present, paper mills have “wafer thin” profit margins of 10%-15% or even less, the review stated.
The government could shop for technologies abroad or develop them at home. Either way, it appears to be a long haul.