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ITC `water-tight' policy proves beneficial
The Hindu Business Line - 25 Apr 2005

Mohan Padmanabhan

ITC units have ensured that their water and air quality norms constitute significant improvements over the standards prescribed.

ITC Ltd, having pioneered the manufacture of eco-friendly elemental chlorine-free (ECF) paper and paperboard in the country at its Bhadrachalam facility, is now making special efforts to increase use of treated water from its pulp and paper units in irrigation, from the current 71 per cent to 100 per cent. In other words, the company is striving for zero discharge, and also emerge as fully water-positive.

Talking to Business Line here recently at the company's three-lakh-tpa modern paperboard unit, Mr Pradeep Dhobale, CEO of the company's Paperboards & Specialty Papers Division (PSPD), said ITC had always endeavoured to emerge as water-positive by returning to the environment more water than it consumes. The underlying philosophy, he said, was to reduce waste, conserve water and energy and promote recycling of materials wherever possible.

Fresh water intake at the Bhadrachalam paper unit has been effectively reduced from 121 kilolitres per tonne of paper to 79.3 kl per tonne over the last four years through a process of re-engineering and latest technology.

According to a study by a firm of international consultants, the average water consumption of the Indian pulp and paper industry was 215 kl per tonne, and for wood-based plants, it is 246.83 kl per tonne. Paperboards & Specialty Papers accounts for 92 per cent of the water consumed by all businesses of ITC, followed by hotels and cigarettes (3 per cent each) and leaf and printing (one per cent each).

The union Government and the Central Pollution Control Board have put in place a voluntary charter of targets for 17 highly polluting industries, including paper and pulp, which stipulates that effluents per tonne of paper should be below 100 kl. Mr Dhobale said the volume of effluents discharged by ITC's Bhadrachalam paper unit was only half of the above prescribed ceiling at 51.5 kl of waste water per tonne of paper.

He put the current hard wood bleached pulp capacity of the unit at 1 lakh tpa.

He said watershed development by the company in the surrounding villages has created storage capacities of around 12.5 million kl. As part of a major watershed development programme for agriculture in and around the mill area, the company has developed six big percolation tanks (PTs) and 36 mini PTs, 13 farm ponds and 16 nalla bunds, providing critical irrigation to 400 hectares.

Reiterating to the group's strong commitment to environment, health and safety standards, he said all ITC units have ensured that their water and air quality requirements constitute significant improvements over the standards prescribed.

He said at the Bhadrachalam pulp and paperboard factory, "besides the environment-friendly ECF bleaching of pulp, there is re-use of lime sludge by installing a lime sludge re-burning kiln".

Besides achieving a 51 per cent reduction in steam consumption, the unit, through cleaner technologies, has set new standards in ECF pulp by exceeding the benchmark environment guidelines of some of its top customers like Tetrapak and BAT.