Indian dairy product and beverage manufacturers’ spending on waste water treatment solutions is projected to almost double from Rs 278 crore in 2011 to Rs 538 crore in 2016. The push towards more environment-friendly manufacturing processes will be spearheaded by companies’ efforts to tap the global market, particularly developed countries like the US.

To achieve this goal, they will first have to achieve compliance with water and waste water norms of regulatory authorities such as the US Environment Protection Agency.

According to research and consultancy firm Frost & Sullivan, the carbonated soft drinks market is expected to achieve a compound annual growth rate of about 10 per cent up to 2015, the fresh juice and health drinks segment will see a 25 per cent CAGR. This is likely to spur the rapid growth of waste water treatment solutions as well, given that consumers tend to favour companies adopting healthy manufacturing processes.

In this regard, the technology in India is still at a nascent stage, with less emphasis on tertiary treatment of waste water generated in manufacturing process and sludge undergoing minimal treatment before being disposed of in landfills. This is likely to change as companies begin to recycle treated water for further use in their processes after physical, chemical and biological treatment.

The discharged water could even be used to replenish aquifers or groundwater, which is the practice in countries like the US. Sludge volumes can also be reduced through anaerobic digestion or methanisation. What is more, it may be used to produce compost for agricultural purposes.

The price-sensitivity of Indian consumers, however, will be a bottleneck to the process, as companies will find it difficult to pass on costs associated with the investment in waste water treatment solutions. This puts emphasis on low-cost solutions over advanced treatment technologies, with a host of small-scale suppliers providing filtration, disinfection and other treatment equipment in India.

arvind.jayaram@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on November 21, 2012)
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