Brazil is the biggest manufacturer of sugar in world after which it is the
Indian sugar industry that produces the most amount of sugar in the world. At
a national level, the sugar industry remains to be the second largest agro based
industry with cotton textile being the largest.
The sugar industry carrying
social and economic importance is also a source of employment and has impacts on
boosting rural economy, generating about 3-4 lacks direct employment and several
more indirect employment opportunities in areas such as transport. However, the
sugar industry operates only between the cold months of October to march to have
maximum yield. Even so, during these six months the sugar industry generates
substantial amount of wastewater during the manufacturing process.
It is a common practice by the sugar mills of releasing this wastewater into
nearby water bodies which then are used for irrigation by farmers. This is where
the destructive and detrimental nature of sugar mills towards the environment
begins. This becomes an introspective concern for pollutions when the scale of
wastewater being released ranges from 30,000 to 40,000 litres on average for per
tons of sugar produced.
What makes Sugar Mill effluents dangerous?
There are three significant pollutants generated from manufacturing of sugar
that raise environmental issues: Molasses, Wastewater and Bagasse.
Molasses constitutes about 4.2% of the crushed cane on an average. The highly
polluting nature of molasses makes it dangerous for disposal without treatment.
(Technical Eia Guidance Manual For Sugar Industry) For putting it into context,
we can compare some parameters of nature of Molasses with standards provides by
the Minimum National Standards for Sugar Industry.
||Admissible Effluent Standards for Inland
|Total dissolved solids (mg/l)
In every parameter, the standard of molasses exceeds the industry standards by
threatening difference making it utterly unfit for direct disposal into the
environment. Yet, it is a common practice by industries of disposing/storing
molasses in underground pits. However, these pits are usually unlined which
during rainy seasons and also raising ground water, gets diluted and are
disposed of by factories into near by water bodies causing severe pollution.
Dissolved Oxygen: Dissolved oxygen (hereinafter "DO") is often tested to
identify any signs of industrial discharge being released into the water,
optimal levels of DO are crucial as it aids formation of biological life in
waterbodies. According to the standards set by Bureau of Indian Standards
(hereinafter "BIS"), the dissolved oxygen of the effluent should range within 4
to 6 mg/lit. However, upon examination of discharges from the factory the DO
of unprocessed sewage was recorded at 1.30 mg/lit and of treated effluent at
Both being lower than the standards set by BIS to be safe to
disposed into open water. If this wastewater is disposed of into fresh water, it
will lower the levels of dissolved oxygen in the waterbody restricting its
capabilities of forming crucial biological life to maintain the water healthy.
Biochemical oxygen demand (BOD): Micro-organisms present in fresh waterbodies
require some level of oxygen which is used by the organisms to decompose organic
matter, this is represented by biochemical Oxygen Demand. Upon examining
effluent from the factory, it was found that the BOD of untreated effluent was
98 mg/l and BOD of treated effluent was 88 mg/l. Both exceeding the BIS standard
that should not exceed 50 mg/l.
The chemical oxygen demand (COD): A higher level of COD would mean high level of
toxicity biological matters present in the water. The effluents from the factory
were found to have 350 mg/l when untreated and 255 mg/l when treated. With the
BIS standard being 250 mg/L, it goes to show how toxic the untreated wastewater
can be if released into fresh water. And while the treated wastewater was
comparatively better, it was still a little over the BIS standards indicating
that the wastewater from the sugar factories at times not safe to be released
after undergoing treatment.
Along with the above parameters, the temperature of the effluent often are also
high with the colour of effluents being dark brown. According to the Hon'ble
National Green Tribunal's standards, the effluents being released from the
factories should be colourless. Although the above measurement are from a single
factory in Uttar Pradesh, most sugar mill untreated effluents follow the same
||Concentration before treatment (mg/L)
||30 for disposal in surface water
10 for disposal on land
|Oil and Grease
Bagasse is generated as a part of solid wates from sugar mills and most of the
bagasse is utilized by the sugar mill itself in its boilers as a fuel. However,
the burning of bagasse results in production of fly ash. Fly ash consists of
nitrogen oxides, carbon particles and other particulate matter like unburnt
Along with fly ash, the use of bagasse as a fuel in the boilers
emits carbon monoxide, a highly poisonous gas causing health problems in
surrounding areas. Along with this, the heavier ash particles settle down and
coat nearby areas with a layer of ash. While the lighter particles escape the
boilers and can cause irritation of eyes, nose and lungs.
Affected Rivers And Areas In U.P, Pollution From Mills:
Sugar mills and distilleries, which discharge water into the Ganga River, are
one of India's 17 most polluting sectors. After the pulp/paper and chemicals
industries, the sugar business produces the third most effluent. Water is used
extensively during the whole phase, which begins in conjunction with cultivation
of sugar cane and end up with discharge of mill waste. Groundwater levels are
affected by this process, which has major ramifications for individual
wellbeing, businesses, and the ecosystem of local water masses.
The top 56 sugar mills in Uttar Pradesh produce around 32% of the nation's sewer
water and flow up to 85.7 million litres per day (MLD) into the river
structure. In Uttar Pradesh alone, roughly 23 court cases are recorded in
opposition to sugar mills for environmental damage since 2014.
Kant Singh Anr vs National Ganga River Basin
, the appellant had filed an
application u/s 14 National Green Tribunal Act. Here the Simbhaoli Sugar Mill
and distillery was discharging untreated effluents into the Simbhaoli Drain
which then opened into the River Ganga. The release of untreated effluents
polluted the ground water of Bauxar, Jamanpur, Syana, Bahadurgarh and Alampur.
It was also said to be adversely affecting River Dolphins and Turtles to which
the River Ganga served as a habitat.
Simbhaoli Sugar Mill was fined 50
million Indian rupees ($670,000) for contaminating the Ganga River, despite
having a daily output capacity of 1,000 million tonnes. At its Ramkola and, more
lately, Rampur mills, Triveni was embroiled in various court actions for
suspected violations of environmental standards. With the correct equipment, an
overflow management plant division would be capable to deal with its hazardous
wastewater containing chemicals.
National Green Tribunal (NGT):
'The 13 Common Effluent Treatment Plant's (CETP) capacity utilisation is
exceedingly low. Only 60-65 million litres per day (MLD) are treated out of a
total capacity of 212 MLD. This is primarily due to the plants receiving
insufficient wastewater, with a flow of just 48-50 MLD, which eventually pollute
the Yamuna.' In Delhi, there are 33 recognised industrial clusters with
roughly 31,000 industrial units, 17 of which have water polluting units
connected to the 13 CETPs.
According to a account succumbed by NEERI to the NGT-board, which was tasked
with inspecting manufacturing groups, the quantity of developed sewage
discovered in pipes in a mass was double the quantity of sewage getting in the
CETP in many areas such as Wazirpur, U.P. This is clearly indicating that
companies that do not transfer all sewage emissions to CETPs or unauthorised
units operating inside the clusters that are involved in water pollution.
According to the statement, this is concerning since wastes were allowed to
contaminate the water without control.
Stricter norms for effluent discharge from sewage treatment plants:
The National Green Tribunal has ordered to adopt stronger standards for sewage
treatment plant effluent discharge (STPs). The green panel stated that waste
emission standards suggested for super and urban towns will be valid to the rest
of the nation and to issue a notification in this regard within a month. It
said that water quality requirements must be the same for residents of big
cities and other cities.
The tribunal ruled that the criteria should be applied
immediately not just to latest STPs, but in addition to current structure STPs,
and that 'providing seven years' time is unacceptable'. 'There is no reason for
separate requirements for residents of towns more than super and urban cities.'
Most of the nation's population will be harmed by lowered standards, with only
those in mega and metropolitan areas having comparatively better standards for
no good reason.
The Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) level is 10, pH varies from 5.5 to 9.0,
Total Suspended Solids is 20, Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) is 50, and the
acceptable Faecal Coliform level is 230 per 100 millilitres, according to the
guidelines. The research evaluated the current state of water quality in the
country's rivers, noting that 323 of the 351 rivers were polluted.
It stated that improved requirements to maintain the water value of streams, as
well as improved requirements for Total Suspended Solids (TSS), nitrogen
(ammonia and nitrates), phosphorus, and faecal coliform. The committee also
concluded that, considering the lack of dilution and deterioration of our rivers
and lakes, nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) controls in water bodies are
required. The NGT's direction came on a plea by Nitin Shankar Deshpande, who
claimed that standards have been drastically diluted by the MoEF under the new
notification which will lead to widespread degradation of water quality in
The case of Dhampur Sugar Mills Ltd. in Uttar Pradesh
The National Green Tribunal has fined four units of Dhampur Sugar Mills Ltd in
Uttar Pradesh Rs 20 crore for violating environmental regulations on a regular
basis. Perusal of the different inspection reports filed by the Central
Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB)
plainly demonstrates that environmental harm was created for a long period,
according to a bench chaired by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel.
FACTS: Four facilities of Dhampur Sugar Mills Ltd in Uttar Pradesh have been
fined Rs 20 crore by the National Green Tribunal for violating environmental
rules on a regular basis. Perusal of the different inspection reports filed by
the CPCB and the UPPCB plainly demonstrates that environmental harm was created
for a long period, according to a bench chaired by NGT Chairperson Justice
Adarsh Kumar Goel.
ORDER OF NGT: The NGT ordered Dhampur Sugar Mills, District Sambhal; Dhampur
Sugar Mills, District Bijnor; Dhampur Distillery Unit, District Bijnor; and
Dhampur Sugar Mills, Meerganj, District Bareilly, to pay Rs 5 crore in
environmental compensation starting September 1, 2021. The tribunal stated that
one thing that has become evident is that all four units have been consistently
breaching environmental rules and have demonstrated a callous attitude and lack
of concern for the adverse effects of pollution on the environment. In reality,
these units have denied other people and local residents of their right to live
in a pollution-free environment, according to the bench.
According to the NGT, there should be a suitable balance between environmental
protection and development activities, which are necessary for advancement.
There is no doubt that society must thrive, but this must not come at the
expense of the environment. The environment must be safeguarded, but not at the
expense of societal growth.
It stated that development and the environment must
coexist and go hand in hand. The tribunal also established a committee comprised
of members from the CPCB (to be nominated by the hairdresser), the UPPCB, and
the concerned District Magistrates to conduct a full investigation into the
amount of environmental damage.
The committee will also meet with farmers and other residents who may have
incurred losses or harm as a result of the units' pollution, according to the
statement. In Adil Ansari v. Dhampur Sugar Mills Ltd., the NGT for
non-compliance of the environmental norms held 'We further impose a litigation
cost of Rs 10 lakh, which should be paid by respondents no 1 to 3 (Dhampur Sugar
Mills Ltd) to CPCB within one month, and the said amount would be used for
environmental conservation and preservation'.
The tribunal was considering a
petition submitted by Adil Ansari demanding penalties against Dhampur Sugar
Mills Ltd.'s units, as well as the imposition of adequate environmental
compensation for non-compliance with environmental norms and legislation.
Existing system has flaws and needs to be overhauled:
In India, the supervisory conformity of manufacturing facilities (emissions and
sewage flow) is overseen by state-level State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs)
and the country's highest statutory authority for pollution control, the CPCB.
The Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change of India established
requirements for sewage flow from sugar businesses in 2016. It is important to
note that in comparison to other countries, India's wastewater generation limit
is significantly stricter, with only 200 litres of wastewater allowed per tonne
of cane crushed.
Furthermore, regulatory officials noted that with the implementation of
appropriate technologies, the aim of 200 litre effluent output per tonne of cane
crushed might be met in some enterprises. As a result, the effluent generation
limit was set at 200 litres per tonne of crushed cane, with the assurance that
enterprises would get adequate technical support and oversight to meet this
However, it was consistently noted that, rather than obeying the
established norms, the enterprises illegally discharged untreated wastewater
into surrounding freshwater resources. The reasons for adopting this technique
could be attributed to ignorance, a lack of concern for environmental quality,
and the desire to maximise financial profits. In the long run, this technique
has resulted in a significant reduction in the recipient's water quality.
It is feasible to investigate the impact of sugar mill sewage as a cause of
contamination of groundwater and surface water in the area using chemical
analysis of groundwater and surface water samples. In India, the sugar industry
is primarily concentrated in rural areas. Sugar businesses that continue to
operate short of taking up conservation precautions may cause major health
concerns for the rural population living nearby.
Dissolved Oxygen, Biochemical
oxygen demand, Nitrate, and colour have all surpassed the permissible limit,
especially in the sugar effluent area. The majority of tests from the sugar
industry area contained levels of nitrate that above the legal limit. It is
obvious that sugar industry wastewater pollutes the groundwater in the
surrounding area. As a result, it is unfit for human eating unless it has been
treated first. To satisfy the required requirements defined by Indian norms,
treatment of effluent discharge from sugar factories is required.
Written By: Umang Mohan
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