Kanpur: In a step to protect Ganga from pollution, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh on Sunday launched a new green technology here that prevents water released by the leather processing units from contaminating the river.
"Close to 50 per cent of the leather processing units in the Ganga river basin are located in Uttar Pradesh (Jajmau, Unnao and Banthara) and West Bengal. Together they use about 3,000 tonnes of salt each day to preserve 5,000 tonnes of raw hide," Ramesh said after launching the technology.
"Close to 90 per cent of this salt finds its way into the Ganga and groundwater leading to pollution and contamination," he said.
The new lyophilisation technology developed and patented by the Environment Ministry's Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) enables salt-free preservation of hides.
"It also brings down the amount of water used in the process, is low on chromium intake and makes for more cost-effective effluent treatment," the Minister said lauding the CPCB for its initiative.
The conventional process of leather preservation across various stages of processing uses large amounts of salt. Owing to this, tannery effluent is characterised by high amounts of dissolved solids, making effluent treatment difficult and expensive.
Ramesh exhorted the leather industry to adopt this technology on a large-scale without the Union Environment Ministry having to pass laws to make its use compulsory.
He said over the next two years, the leather industry will need to install around 900 such lyophilisers with each unit costing between Rs 60 lakhs and Rs 2 crore.
Ramesh said the Indian leather industry must grow and expand in view of its economic and social significance but it must do so in an environmentally-benign manner.
Stating that the CPCB was taking proactive steps by invoking Section (5) of the Environment Protection Act, 1986 to issue directions directly to industrial units in the Ganga Basin, the Minister revealed that between April 2010 and May 2011, such directions to comply with effluent standards were issued to 30 industrial units and in some cases directions for closure were also issued.
"These units cover distilleries, paper mills, chemical factories and leather tanneries," he said.
Ramesh said the credible threat of CPCB action has resulted in a number of units taking pre-emptive action so as to meet effluent standards.
"CPCB will continue to be vigilant, particularly in the most heavily-polluted 500-km stretch of the Ganga between Kannauj and Varanasi," he said.
Ramesh said over the past two years, the National Ganga River Basin Authority chaired by the Prime Minister had cleared Rs 2,600 crore worth of projects (mainly sewerage treatment) to help clean the Ganga.
Of this, Rs 1,400 crore is in Uttar Pradesh alone with Rs 500 crore sanctioned for Varanasi, Rs 305 crore for Allahabad and Rs 280 crore for Moradabad. Another Rs 872 crore worth of projects are under appraisal which include Rs 540 crore for Kanpur and Rs 310 crore for Allahabad, he said.
In addition, a further Rs 1,000 crore worth of projects are in the pipeline, the Minister said.
In all these projects, the Centre's share is 70 per cent and the state government's share 30 per cent. For the next five years, O&M costs will also, for the first time, be shared in the same formula, he added.