Getting water positive
Our planet is covered with 70 per cent of water and only 30 per cent of land. Considering this fact, water should not have been an issue in this world. But as the famous quote goes 'Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink' from 'The Rime of Ancient Mariner' by poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, it still holds good even today's conditions of water scarcity.
India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world at the moment. Keeping this growth and the burgeoning population across the country in mind, it is only obvious that the demand for water is set to grow manifold. However, the reality presents a gloomy picture in terms of the fact that India is stressed in terms of its water resources.
Going by the NITI Aayog report, the situation in India is expected to get worse by 2030. The already scarce water resource has been further compromised in quality and availability by inefficiency, mismanagement and climate change. Experts feel that there is a need for corporate action in water across various themes such as drinking water, water for agriculture, water conservation and management, water treatment and more.
Though cement manufacturing does not involve huge consumption of water, it is required mainly in the areas like quenching/dust suppression in production process, equipment cooling, condenser in case of power plant, fire fighting, boiler feed, drinking water for offices and for cleaning domestic/heavy vehicles.
Vexl Environ Projects, one of India's leading water treatment and recycling technology companies, caters to various requirements of the cement sector in India and has been awarded similar projects in South Africa, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
The company's Research and Development Division 'is working on reverse engineering with an aim to bring efficiency to the process so that the source consumption itself comes down thereby bringing down the life cycle cost of treatment. VEXL is also working on efficient handling of solid waste generated in the units so as to give a holistic solution to water and solid waste management,' said Bhaskar Bhattar, Director, VEXL Environ Projects, while responding to a query from ICR. With the upcoming challenges in the industry, VEXL has tied up with various institutional experts from UDCT, IITs, NEERI to bring down capex and opex to water and wastewater treatment system.
VEXL claims that it had achieved 60 per cent energy saving and 40 per cent water saving at Saurashtra Cement by optimising the process water pumping and piping system, and 40 per cent energy saving to a 2.5 million litres a day (MLD) desalination plant at UTCL, Sewagram by optimising the entire pumping and membrane designs. With the given cement industry scenario in India, VEXL feels that one should not look for a short term solution to the given problem. For existing plants, VEXL believes that a detailed water audit should be done with water balance at initial level, then experts should study and suggest measures for implementation, which then should be thoroughly discussed between the client and experts, and then phase-wise implementation should be planned. But preventive planning using self cleaning filters, IOT/AI to operation and maintenance, low energy sustainable solutions to sewage and effluent treatment, energy efficient pumping systems and many such measures, is yet to become popular with Indian industry.
Water is too precious to be used just once and it is in this perspective that water reclamation and reuse constitute one of the major trends in water management. The concept of water recycle has immense potential not only in the municipal sector, but also in the industrial sector given the massive water requirement and the harmful contaminants present in the discharged effluent. 'It is imperative to realise the true potential of the limited water resources available, in other words, water must be reclaimed,' says Rajneesh Chopra, Global Head - Business Development, VA Tech WABAG Limited.
The Ujams Wastewater treatment and Water Reuse project in Nmibia, implemented by VA Tech WABAG, has received the Distinction Award for the 'Industrial Water Project of the Yearö at the Global Water Summit held at Athens, Greece, 2015, for incorporating numerous unique features in it.
The benefits of adopting water reuse mechanisms will ensure water security and enable realisation of the true potential of water as a finite resource are immense.
Ambuja Cements' initiatives
Ambuja was ranked 2nd among 13 global cement companies in the Carbon Disclosure Project League table of 2018. The list indicates the companies which are best prepared for the low carbon transition.
- Operational water consumption is 127 lit/t cementitious material
- Operational fresh water withdrawal is 64 lit/t cementitious material
- 15% of water is recycled
- Over 6 times water positive
Ambuja Cement Foundation (ACF), the company's CSR arm set up in 1993 at Kodibar, worked with farmers in the immediate neighbourhood of our plant with the philosophy that 'if Ambuja prospers, so will our neighbours'. Today, ACF has expanded to 30 locations spread across 11 states on issues ranging from Water Resource Development, Agricultural Livelihoods, Skill and Entrepreneurship Development, among others. It implements these programmes in partnership with various agencies and corporates.
Water resource management
Water resource development remains one of our oldest and largest thrust areas and undertakes projects for Water Harvesting & Conservation (check dams, interlinking rivers, watershed development etc.), Drinking Water (Roof Rain Water Harvesting Structures - RRWHS, pond deepening, in-village distribution system, water quality surveillance etc.) and Optimum Utilisation (Water User Association, Participatory Irrigation Management (PIM) and Promotion of Micro Irrigation).
By the end of year 2018, ACF completed construction of 425 check dams, 6684 RRWHS, treated 25209 hectares for Watershed Development, which along with other projects created a cumulative water storage capacity of 54 MCM, across all locations. As a step towards sustainability of the impact created by the programme, community institutions such as Water User Associations (WUAs), Paani Samiti and Village Watershed Committee (VWC) play significant roles in planning and execution of water project; and are also trained and empowered to ensure post project repair and maintenance of assets created.
Excerpts from Ambuja Cements Ltd Annual Report 2018.
- BS SRINIVASALU REDDY