Ecolab Inc is a global leader in water, hygiene and energy technologies and services. It delivers comprehensive solutions and on-site service to promote safe food, maintain clean environments, water recycling, optimize energy use and improve operational efficiencies for customers in the food, healthcare, energy, hospitality and industrial markets in more than 170 countries around the world.
Vishal Sharma, Vice President and General Manager, India at Ecolab Inc & Managing Director, Nalco Water India Limited told Sandeep Menezes that the focus on water and wastewater treatment is critical to bring the smart cities vision to life.
Excerpts from the interview:
Government intends to set-up 100 smart cities nationwide by 2022 but special emphasis needs to be laid on water and wastewater treatment. Comment.
Smart cities are all about having great infrastructure. Water and wastewater treatment are critical to them. The current situation in practically every major Indian city especially metros is very bad with regards to the availability of potable and municipal water, as well as the facility for wastewater treatment. Open sewers form an integral part of many cities e.g. Mumbai. Hence, the focus on water and wastewater treatment is critical to bring the smart cities vision to life.
Due to the increasingly stringent wastewater discharge requirements in India, many MSMEs are turning to specialist companies for sustainable solutions. Going forward, how do you foresee the scenario?
There is no other way. Water treatment is not child’s play and is a science. If it’s done well, it can be very effective and cost efficient and if not, it can become a chain around the neck. Nobody wants to violate PCB (Pollution Control Board) norms, or discharge effluence with the wrong parameters. Water quality impacts the quality of products in so many industries. Customers and markets are becoming very aware of quality now, and the awareness on compliance and green is also increasing. Hence, the best option for MSMEs is to take the services of speciality water treatment companies and drive their water agendas.
How much future growth do you foresee in the industrial wastewater treatment segment? Tell us about the main growth drivers?
The main driver for growth here is going to be compliance, and the cost of non-compliance. Add to that the fact that large MNCs or even large Indian businesses no longer are prepared to buy products from a company that violates norms or is not sophisticated enough in terms of the water management. Please note than sustainability as a concept is getting stronger and stronger day by day. So compliance and sustainability will be the main drivers for the growth of wastewater treatment. We have seen in recent times a very high level of public awareness. Communities are becoming very wary of industries around them and the prospects of groundwater contamination. All these add to the drive for wastewater treatment growth as industries can no longer take chances with wastewater treatment.
Water is crucial to industrial activity but recent years have witnessed acute shortage nationwide. Therefore do you feel that recycling could be looked as an option especially for commercial and industrial purposes?
Recycling is the only option. It is no longer a choice. India is water starved and everyone knows that. We struggle to provide municipal water, so how will we provide ample water for industrial purposes. Government policies are dictating that when industries expand, their water consumption must not increase. The refining sector cannot consume any more water. Beverage companies are trying to reduce the water used per KL of beverage produced. The cost of water, which so far has been very low, is also looking to rise in the future. All these are drivers that will make the recycling of water both necessary as well as cost effective. In the past, many industries thought the capex on recycling is not worth it, but as the cost of water increases, all the economics will fall into place.
In spite of huge water scarcity across India, except Tamil Nadu water desalination projects have largely not been take-up. Comment.
Desalination as a concept is still not so strong in India, though globally it is very popular. Again, it is an advanced concept that needs to be propagated in India much more than has been done so far. Decision on this needs to be taken by state governments and city municipal corporations. The situation in most coastal cities has still not reached chronic status, and when it does, I believe they will all look at desalination as the option. Also, the cost of desal water per KL is much higher than the cost of municipal water currently, and is another deterrent to the concept. Over time, as the cost of municipal water rises, the concept of desal water will become more viable and acceptable.
Going forward, tell us about Nalco India’s future business strategy in the water and wastewater treatment sector?
Nalco as a global water treatment leader is very focused on the water industry in India. Having said that, we are an industrial and institutional focused company, and do not foray into the municipal or agricultural side of water. So on the Industrial side; we have a strong focus on both – inlet water quality as well as process water and also the wastewater side. Our solutions are both on the capex side as well as on the chemistry side, and for large customers we undertake end to end water treatment solutions even offering the water on a Rs/KL basis at times. India is a focus market for us and we are making all efforts to bring our best-in-class technologies here.