In backdrop of environmental issues gaining currency, private sugar millers in Uttar Pradesh, the country’s top sugarcane producer, have invested nearly Rs 600 crore towards pollution control measures in the last 2 years.
“Sugar industry has collectively invested Rs 500-600 crore since 2017 towards effluent treatment and ensuring our plants do not discharge polluted water, and we are ready to invest more if required,” UP Sugar Mills Association (UPSMA) president C B Patodia said here today.
Of total 119 sugar mills in UP, the private sector account for the majority of 94 units, followed by 24 cooperative sugar factories and one plant of UP State Sugar Corporation Limited (UPSSCL).
Patodia, however, underlined there was some lack of clarity in environmental parameters for the sugar industry, which needed to be resolved, since now state sugar mills are also foraying into ethanol production to expand their product portfolio.
“We are ready to invest more in our plants and have even proposed to set up a state of art testing laboratory under the aegis of UPSMA, and to be accredited and operated in collaboration with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and UP Pollution Control Board (UPPCB),” he told Business Standard on sidelines of a workshop on the topic of UP sugar industry and environment.
Addressing the workshop, Patodia said the state sugar industry would also prepare its own operational protocols on the lines of cement and paper industries, for conforming to the changing environmental and pollution norms.
He maintained sugar sector played a vital role in the state’s rural economy and that the industry was willing to do everything possible to ensure that it does not contaminate water bodies.
Meanwhile, CPCB additional director Ajit Vidyarthi said the central green regulator had identified about 49 UP sugar mills, situated in the periphery of river Ganga and its tributaries, for pollution control audit during the coming crushing season, which is expected to begin towards the end of October or first week of November.
He urged state sugar industry to institutionalise a mechanism of self-reporting and self-certification for conforming to pollution control norms. “Going forward, the prosecution in cases of flouting of norms would only get tougher and therefore the industry should start the process of self-compliance from this crushing season,” he noted.
CPCB has mandated UP sugar industry to prepare its action plan towards attaining zero effluent status, including filing an affidavit of conforming to pollution norms, instituting an environmental cell, hiring trained technicians/analysts, self reporting, creating a strict surveillance system etc.
Meanwhile, UP sugar mills carry farmers’ outstanding of nearly Rs 4,800 crore pertaining to the previous 2018-19 crushing season, of which the private sector alone owe the bulk of about Rs 4,500 crore, followed by cooperate units with Rs 300 crore of dues.