The paper industry is going through one of the worst phases in the last 30 years and sustainability has become a major focus area, according to Sanjay Singh, Chief Executive Officer of ITC-Paperboards and Speciality Papers Division.

The sector is faced with several challenges including sustaining the supply of raw materials while continuing to ensure profitability and market share. The thrust is also on bringing down emissions from mills.

Speaking on Sustainability Issues in Paper and Pulp Industry, Sanjay Singh said technology upgradation, increase in investments and ensuring supply of raw materials will be the focus area. Competitiveness will be based on the ability to adapt to changes including nano technologies.

He said the country has scores of small paper mills which are scattered. Such mills will be hard put to upgrade and invest in new technologies to meet the stringent pollution and emission norms.

Just like in China where small mills are being closed, India is also likely to witness a similar situation. "Either they will be bought out or be shut," he said.

While the growth is inevitable in the country’s paper sector, this is also seen as one of the most polluting industries. The perception is that more trees are cut and rivers are polluted. While the industry has been growing more trees than what are cut, the perception on these issues needs to change.

The farm forestry has gradually making way for agro forestry. Since plantations take about 4-5 years to yield returns, ITC has taken to agro forestry where plantations are taken up in about 20 per cent land and the remaining 80 per cent is used to cultivate short-term crops. This ensures regular flow of income to the farm community.

Crops such as rice, tobacco are grown in such agro forestry fields. Efforts have also been initiated to have exclusive biodiversity fields, he said.

rishikumar.vundi@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on December 11, 2012)
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