SIV:On the comeback trail

  • 30/07/1999

SIV: On the comeback trail South India Viscose ( siv ) Ltd has a factory on the banks of river Bhavani in Sirumugai village of Coimbatore district, Tamil Nadu. siv 's recent history is also the story of a vigilant local community and media that taught a lesson to the polluting factory. The factory learnt the lesson and has improved its environmental performance significantly. This shows that pressure from the local community, civil society and media can ensure proper functioning of the state pollution control boards, politicians, the bureaucracy and the industry.

Unhappy with the pollution of the Bhavani by the mill, a local community group filed a writ petition in the Madras High Court against running of siv 's pulp plant in January 1995. The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board ( tnpcb ) denied the factory consent to continue operations in 1994-95 and 1996-97. The board gave the factory a closure notice in 1995. Yet the factory kept operating till January 1997, when it was closed following orders from the high court.

But the siv management got its act together. The company made investments in pollution control equipment. The mill is now equipped with a computerised effluent treatment plant which is one of the best in the country. Recently, the company's pulp plant also has been given consent to operate on a trial basis. This will certainly improve the mill's financial standing as it relies heavily on the pulp plant, and needs to recover the losses it incurred while the plant was closed.

One of the reasons why the company did not figure high in the ratings is that it has undertaken modernisation very recently. The ratings are based on performance in the past three years up to 1997-98. Considering the efforts that the company has made in recent times, there is no reason to believe that the company would not improve further.

SPBL: An innovative approach

Seshasayee Paper and Boards Ltd ( spbl ) is located on the banks of the river Cauvery in Erode, Tamil Nadu. The company has not figured high in the ratings. One of the reasons is that its pollution control efforts are not good enough. There have been questions about the quality of the treated effluent. And there are complaints of groundwater pollution.

Yet there are aspects of the company's performance that are quite striking. An important feature of the mill has been its management of effluents and procurement of raw materials through an ingenious arrangement called the 'tripartite agreement'. The system has been functioning well for the past eight years. This shows that the company had a vision of sustainability much before such terms gained common parlance.

The system began to grow roots in 1964, when spbl started supplying treated effluent to farmers. This helped the com-pany avoid discharging effluent into the Cauvery.

Secondly, use of treated effluent for irrigation brought barren lands in the surrounding areas under a green cover. In 1982, the district revenue authorities also started promoting use of effluents for irrigation. Farmers of nearby villages formed a lift irrigation society. Sugarcane yields increased.

The third aspect of the system is a move towards renewable raw materials. Way back in the 1960s, anticipating shortages of bamboo supplies, the mill started procuring bagasse from a nearby sugar mill. But the agreement could not work out. In 1983, the mill was facing a shortage of raw material. To overcome this, it promoted the establishment of a captive sugar mill, Ponni Sugars and Chemicals Ltd, to secure the availa-bility of bagasse. spbl gives its treated effluent to farmers to grow sugarcane, which is bought by the sugar mill, which, in turn, provides raw material to the factory. Simple as that.