Agri Business

Indian fertiliser sector’s record on water pollution is a cause for concern: CSE

Jayan TV New Delhi | Updated on July 30, 2019 Published on July 30, 2019

The government will look into excessive groundwater use and nitrogen pollution caused by fertiliser plants and will find a way to address the issues, Minister for Environment and Forests Prakash Javadekar said at an event here.

Javadekar, while releasing a report on green rating project (GRP) on Indian fertiliser industry by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) on Monday , said that groundwater pollution is a serious problem and the plants are need to be made accountable. The Minister praised CSE for carrying such third-party auditing of industry and said that the exercise is of immense help for the government in tackling governance issues.

The GRP exercise found that while the Indian fertiliser industry has done very well in curtailing energy use and greenhouse gas emissiokns, its ratings slipped on water consumption and water pollution parameters.

Areas surrounding at least one-third of the fertiliser plants found to have very high levels of nitrogen in groundwater. This was mainly because as part of their mandate to recycle used-water, the plants were using it for watering horticulture and other crops in their premises. This has lead to nitrogen seeping into the water table.

CSE in the past has done similar green rating of several industries, including cement, paper, coal and thermal.

Gap in performance

A comprehensive analysis based on 42 different parameters that cover the complete life cycle of the fertiliser industry found that Indian fertiliser sector was among the best in the world in energy use and GHG emissions. “The fertiliser sector as whole has turned out a better performer than any of other sectors rating by GRP,” said CSE Deputy Director General Chandra Bhushan, who heads the green rating project.

“The overall score achieved by the sector was a respectable 42 per cent, and we have awarded it the ‘Three Leaves’ prize. What is worrying is that there is a significant gap in performance between the companies we have rated the best and those that have floundered,” Bhushan said.

The top rated plant is Grasim Industries Ltd’s Indo Gulf Fertilisers unit at Jagdishpur, Uttar Pradesh. This plant, with 61 per cent score, has received the coveted ‘Four Leaves’ award for its superior performance in energy use and GHG emissions, its good EHS (environment, health and safety) measures, and social responsibility, and its transparency in sharing information.

The three winners of the ‘Three Leaves’ award are Hazira (Gujarat) unit of Krishak Bharati Cooperative Ltd (KRIBHCO), the Panambur (Karnataka) unit of Mangalore Chemicals & Fertilizers Ltd, and the Babrala (Uttar Pradesh) unit of Yara Fertilisers India Pvt Ltd.

Cause for concern

But the exercise found that the sector’s record on water use, water pollution and plant safety was a cause for concern. The rating found that this sector has slipped on its water consumption and water pollution parameters — plants are also getting affected simply because of lack of water; their water sources are getting depleted and disappearing very fast.

According to Bhushan, another major concern was the age of the plants — most of India’s fertiliser plants are getting old. “Though the sector still manages to perform reasonably well in meeting health and safety standards, most plants need to upgrade their on-site and off-site disaster management plans and communicate them to the concerned authorities and the local community,” he said.

Sunita Narain, CSE Director General, said, “The bottom line is that the fertiliser industry in India stands at a cross-roads today. The biggest issue it is grappling with is the future of nitrogenous fertilisers itself. India is the second largest producer, importer and consumer of these fertilisers (mainly urea), and with nitrogen pollution reaching alarming levels, the industry needs to rethink the way it produces and sells fertilisers.”

Published on July 30, 2019
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