The Environment Ministry’s proposal, to hastily implement a ‘stringent’ norm mandating nearly all textile processing units to eliminate liquid discharges, can result in closure of many small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and trigger large-scale job losses, according to the Textile Ministry.
In his response to the draft notification by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Textiles Secretary, S. K. Panda, has said the proposed standards — mandating ‘Zero Liquid Discharge’ (ZLD) for textile processing units where waste water discharge is over 25 kilo litres a day — will be “too stringent” for the domestic textile processing industry that is largely unorganised and comprising of SMEs, according to reliable sources.
Around 94 per cent of India’s apparel workers are employed in firms with 50 workers or less, and less than six firms have over 2,000 workers, Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Arvind Panagariya had said.
The Environment Ministry also requires textile units in clusters (like Tirupur and Ludhiana) to establish a ZLD-common effluent treatment plants irrespective of their waster water discharge levels.
Setting up ZLD-effluent treatment plants will need huge initial capital investment as well as high recurring expenditure making it commercially non-viable, the secretary said.
Citing several representations from the textile sector against such norms, he also said insisting on ZLD could in turn result in closure of several units and unemployment for workers in those units.
Mr. Panda, therefore, said the environment ministry should consider implementing the ZLD only in a phased manner. He said the environment ministry should keep in view the larger interest of the textiles sector as well as the country’s economic development, and implement the ZLD only in a phased manner.
Meanwhile, the Textiles Ministry has set up a panel to look into the existing technologies of effluent treatment and suggesting the best available technology — after taking into account the financial and other related factors — that can be introduced in these SME units.
The Textiles Ministry has said, as a short-term measure, the best available technology will be adopted, but in the long-term, research and development will be pursued for developing cleaner and more cost-effective options.
One of the alternatives being tried out is marine discharge, where waste is recycled and the residue (which is substantially salt, and therefore considered safe) is discharged into the sea. But for that, the units will have to be located near the coastal region as setting up long pipelines from inland units to the sea will be non-viable.
The Supreme Court had several years ago asked the textile units in Tirupur (Tamil Nadu) to ensure that they do not pollute the Noyyal river and that they bring down their liquid discharge to zero. The order had led to the closure of several units in the area.
*This story first appeared on The Hindu.