NGT order on ‘lead content’ warning in PVC pipes to push up costs

Suresh P Iyengar Mumbai | Updated on May 01, 2018


First step towards banning the harmful chemical, replacing pipes across country

The recent order of the National Green Tribunal to display the lead content in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes — as a first step towards the eventual ban of the harmful chemical in pipes — is expected to boost demand.

While most of the organised manufacturers have started using alternative stabilisers such as zinc in PVC pipe-making, some of the small units still rely on lead due to the cost factor.

Acting on the Tribunal order, the Environment Ministry last month directed all PVC pipe manufacturers to carry a ‘warning’ sign on such pipes that “they contain lead which is harmful to health.”

Besides, the Ministry has also drawn up a programme for phasing out lead as a stabiliser in PVC pipes within six months. The move will allow manufacturers to market only lead-free pipes in the future.

Saurabh Sangla, Executive Director, Signet Industries, told BusinessLine that the government will be forced to replace all large-diameter PVC pipes channelling drinking water from rivers to households if the Tribunal bans pipes with lead.

Wholesale replacement

“Developed countries have banned lead in PVC pipes as it harms human beings in the long run. Almost all the drinking water pipes in India need to replaced,” he said.

Hearing a plea of the NGO Jan Sahyog Manch in January, the NGT directed the Ministry to issue a general direction to all manufacturers of PVC pipes to market pipes only with the ‘warning’ sign.

It also told the Ministry to lay down quality standards for using lead in PVC pipes in consultation with the Bureau of Indian Standards.

The demand for PVC pipes has risen steadily to touch 1.3 lakh tonnes a month. Almost 70 per cent of the pipes use lead-based stabilisiers for manufacturing PVC pipes.

3-5% hike in price likely

The replacement of lead with zinc for stabilising heat in PVC pipe manufacturing is likely to push up costs by 3-5 per cent.

The cost of a lead-based stabiliser is about ₹110 a kg and that of zinc works out to about ₹150 a kg.

Despite the cost push, PVC pipes are expected to be cheaper compared to steel pipes due to their durability over the long run and because they are easier to install, said Sangla.

Published on May 01, 2018

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