India’s textile and garment exports may have hit $41.4 billion for the fiscal year 2014-15, but it came at an environmental cost that contributed heavily to water pollution. The country’s dyeing and printing houses are notorious for not only draining the already-scarce water supplies, but for discharging untreated effluent into local streams and rivers, contaminating resources and contributing to public-health problems.
In an effort to protect the Yamuna, the largest tributary of the Ganges in northern India, the Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB) this week ordered nearly 40 textile units in Gurgaon near New Delhi to clean up their acts.
The companies have each been instructed to install an effluent treatment plant (ETP) and a reverse osmosis (RO) plant to re-use discharged water within 16 months, making it mandatory for them to become “zero discharge” units, thereby eliminating the release of all hazardous chemicals into the river.
Some experts are skeptical the units can meet the installation deadline because ETP installation can cost up to five crore Indian rupees (or nearly $790,000), a charge that may not be commercially viable for many, and can take between four to six months to complete. But as an HSPCB official told the Times of India, “We issued the directions this month so that industries get enough time to put in place the treatment plant and recycling mechanism. If directions are not followed by any unit, they will be sealed immediately.”
That’s not an empty threat: Earlier this year, 893 textile units in Sanganer near Jaipur were ordered to close for failing to install ETPs.