Economic growth is driving increased water usage

IFAT India is the nation’s leading trade fair for water, sewage, refuse and recycling. It is organised by MMI India Pvt. Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Messe München International – one of the world ́s leading trade show companies.

Bhupinder Singh

Bhupinder Singh

Bhupinder Singh, Deputy CEO and CMO, MMI India Pvt Ltd told Sandeep Menezes that water management consisting of watershed management, rainwater harvesting, desalination, effluent treatment, filtration, river-interlinking projects and sewage treatment, has largely received fragmented treatment, bereft of a long-term vision.

Excerpts from the interview:
Everyone in India wants eco-friendly development but hesitate to contribute towards the additional in-vestments that come with it. Is there a low cost alternative to adopt eco-friendly technologies?

New technology, no matter the sector, is indeed mostly quite high-priced which makes it difficult for some nations to acquire the necessary technologies. However, we know that many companies, which exhibit in IFAT India or other IFAT shows around the globe, not only offer modern and high-end technology but also technology which is adapted to the special needs of different markets. We are not talking about low-quality technology but technology which meets the special need of a certain country and takes its specific requirements into account.
Critics claim that most of the environmental technologies in the market have been designed in Western nations and are not suited for Indian conditions. Comment.

As things are now, many of the so called key players indeed have their headquarters and sales focus in Western nations. However, many of those companies also offer adapted technologies which are tailored to the needs of specific markets. For example, some equipment or plants, which can be used in Europe, probably cannot be used in India due to climate conditions or alike. Here, more and more companies adapt their equipment in order to make it usable for other markets, too. Additionally, many companies nowadays have subsidiaries in different countries to be closer to the market and to offer more service locally.
The new government is keen for economic development with higher emphasis on environmental con-cerns. How do events such as IFAT India assist in achieving economic development through an eco-friendly route?

Trade fairs are traditionally a great occasion to strengthen existing business contacts or to establish new ones – especially for companies from different countries. In this respect, shows like IFAT India offer the best possible conditions to strengthen trade relations between various business partners. Moreover, trade fairs are events where companies present their products and innovations for the first time. The novelties presented there serve as guidance for upcoming and future projects.
Huge economic growth is happening in Asia especially India & China vis-à-vis Europe. Going forward, do you feel IE Expo China and IFAT India can emerge bigger than the original IFAT (Germany)?

IFAT in Munich has a very long tradition – the first IFAT took place in 1966. So, this show is extremely well-known among companies and visitors alike – its reputation is simply outstanding. However, we are very happy that IE expo and IFAT India are also highly accepted by exhibitors and visitors and are continuously growing. I am confi-dent that both shows will not only grow further and but also further establish themselves as the leading trade fair for environmental technology in China and India.
Can a developing nation like India afford to spend on eco-friendly technologies when meeting the sur-vival needs of its people must be its first criteria?
One of the biggest fall-outs of an accelerated pace of development is actually deteriorating quality of the envi-ronment which could eventually affect the very survival of mankind. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that of the 67 risk factors studied in the Global Burden of Disease project, outdoor air pollution is ranked fifth in mortality and seventh in health burden in India, contributing to over 627,000 deaths and 17.7 million healthy years of life lost in 2010. It would be a veritable recipe for disaster, if we continue at this rate for the next 10 to 15 years, without bringing in awareness and spending on eco-friendly technologies. Hence eco-friendly technologies and the very survival of the common man are actually closely linked. In fact we need to go beyond mere technological transfers and evolve pathways for pollution control as there are co-benefits of reduc-ing greenhouse gases and reducing the health benefits. Our nation needs to develop larger frameworks to mobi-lise resources and invest in technological innovations thereby developing on the principles of ‘green buildings’ to eventually look at the concept of ‘green cities’ which would be the essential foundation for the government’s ambi-tious plan of building 100 smart cities.

Inefficient wastewater treatment is a major irritant across urban India. Have we as a nation failed with regards to planning long term urban wastewater treatment infrastructure?
Since independence and post partition, there has been a rapid influx of population into cities. Hence the nation saw a period of accelerated urbanization, but which was largely without any planning, barring a silver lining like the planned city of Chandigarh. The haphazard growth of cities, bypassing of environmental laws and existing master plans by the private sector-driven land development industry had precipitated a crisis of sorts, in the over-all habitat scenario in the country. Town planners went further off the mark vis-à-vis, the urban scenario with their lopsided approach to urbanisation, which was variously being redefined and reinvented by all kinds of interest groups. The situation was further exacerbated by abject lack of coordination between private players and state agencies. Not just wastewater treatment, water management consisting of watershed management, rainwater harvesting, desalination, effluent treatment, filtration, river-interlinking projects and sewage treatment, has largely received a fragmented treatment, bereft of a long-term vision. However, growth of the Indian economy in recent years is driving increased water usage across sector, generating increased wastewater, calling for immediate measure in wastewater treatment technologies. Also, many foreign water management companies are foraying into India offering efficient technologies and consulting services, building more awareness into this sector.

There were recent reports which stated that over a third of wastewater treatment facilities in India violate environmental protection rules. Is it the problem of inadequate regulations or inefficient implementation of norms?
Traditionally India has been endowed with large freshwater reserves, but increasing population and overexploita-tion of both surface and ground water over the years has resulted in water scarcity. It is but an anomaly of sorts that India being the 2nd largest consumer of water depends largely on rainwater to meet its needs. Systemic breakdown of water management could be attributed to a combination of policy failures along with institutional weakness, technological loopholes, multiple Governmental organisations and inadequacy in generation of reve-nues to meet costs. This has led to a situation where environmental protection rules are repeatedly being flouted. The situation has seen an improvement with successive governments tightening the screws both on regulations and implementation of norms. Even events like IFAT have played a major role in bringing the industry stake-holders under one roof, ironing out policies and bringing in regulations which resolves the wastewater treatment facilities in India and also creates awareness in improving the effluent treatment by industries.

What is the current & future market size for environmental technologies and services in India? Tell us about the main growth drive?
India has a growing demand for modern environmental technologies and services. The country has approximately 36.5 million tonnes of waste generated annually and will see a rise in waste generation from less than 40,000 metric tonnes per year to over 125,000 metric tonnes by the year 2030. IFAT India 2014 provided a platform to the industry from relevant environmental sectors in water: sewage, refuse, recycling and energy conservation management in India. Now you have products like MF, RO, UF, NF, Micro filtration, MBR, CEDI, in the filtration and membrane space which is fast replacing resin technologies and to give a number to the vastness of this market would be a bit difficult for me at this point in time. Purification and disinfection technologies like activated carbon, UV and ozone is another space which has come to stay and will continue to grow not only in the WTP and WWTP but also in the process side too. Reactivation of Activated carbon which will reduce the carbon foot print by reducing CO2 emission by 30% will play a vital role in India. All developed nations have already well entrenched into this space. WTP and WWTP are the common factor cutting across the hydrocarbon, coating , automobile, F&B, electronics, pharmaceuticals, textiles, etc. As we progress into the next phase of growth we need to have products and technologies in place to create a Cleaner India.

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