Conserving natural resources: The challenge of balancing growth and sustainability

Humanity’s march towards modernisation and development is rife with the challenge of conserving finite natural resources. Water is one of those natural resources which has depleted quickly owing to rapid growth of population, industrialisation and increased agricultural practices.

With rapid economic growth, need for more food and widespread urbanisation, India’s demand for water is increasing by the day. A UNESCO report earlier this year cited India along with many other countries in Asia, as being at the cusp of a severe water scarcity problem. India is home to world’s 17% population and yet have 4% of world’s freshwater resources. The yearly water availability per person has decreased by 75% in 75 years after Independence, from 6,042 cubic meters in 1947 to 1,486 cubic meters in 2021. The major cause of concern is high dependence on monsoon and low ground water levels.

Unsustainable industrial water consumption is an environmental and sustainability challenge. In this context, Indian industry has an extremely critical role to play. It can contribute to mitigating the water crisis by propagating sustainable practices like safe discharge of wastewater, usage of water efficient technologies and deploying recycling and reuse techniques to reduce freshwater consumption and reduce water pollution. There is an urgent need to propagate ‘Water Stewardship’ – which as defined by the United Nations, refers to the act of ‘using water in a way that is socially equitable, environmentally sustainable and economically beneficial.’ Water Stewardship can be achieved by deploying best practices, applying innovations and technologies to improve the efficiency of processes to reuse water multiple times.

In this context, we have always been at the forefront with its efforts to significantly reduce consumption of natural resources. Focus has been to proactively reduce freshwater consumption.

Through various initiatives such as characterization of influent and effluent stream, pinch for product washing, closed loop backwashing, reverse osmosis (RO) for streams with low dissolved solids, installation of Lime-Soda Treatment followed by RO to recover water, etc. we have been able to keep our freshwater withdrawal as low as possible despite capacity expansions.

Apart from above mentioned initiatives and technological interventions, Grasim also achieved a path breaking innovation by successfully commissioning the first Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) plant in the global viscose industry. This sets a new benchmark in the closed-loop process and increases the water recovery to the extent of 95% from the viscose process and at the same time zero effluent discharge, reduces the liquid effluents to zero. Man-made cellulosic fibres (MMCF) such as viscose, modal & lyocell manufacturing is a water intensive process.

Surya Valluri
Chief Sustainability Officer
Grasim Industries Limited

We follow EU Best Available Techniques (BAT) guidelines for benchmarking our water consumption and all the sites are within EU BAT limits and much lower than the regulatory norm. All these measures have led to reduction in freshwater withdrawal intensity of MMCF manufacturing of Grasim by 35% in last 5 years.

We are confident that with our persistent efforts we will continue to improve our processes. We continue to look for innovative solutions to reduce water consumption further and limit usage to the bare minimum requirement.

As responsible corporate citizens it is not only our duty to conserve water but to also spread awareness along with developing a sustainable tradition that succeeding generations can follow. We strive every day to uphold our commitment to a green and sustainable future, with our water management practices following UN SDG 6 and 12 for the people and the planet.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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