Efforts required to achieve Zero Fresh Water Consumption (ZFC) and Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) in sugar industry

From the concept of “Standalone Sugar Factory” to “Integrated Sugar Complex” having facilities for production of sugar, power and ethanol, the Indian Sugar Industry has travelled a long way. However, one area where still the industry is required to work upon holistically is about conserving water. Now, the water management is not to be looked in isolation for the sugar factory only but for the complex as a whole and efforts are required to be made to achieve Zero Fresh Water Consumption (ZFC) & Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) from the industry adopting the four R’s i.e. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle & Respect, following the “Best Available Technologies (BAT)” and “Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s), said Prof. Narendra Mohan, Former Director, National Sugar Institute, Kanpur.

With the havoc of climate change and global warming already making the life tougher, the water crisis which increased manifolds during the last few years is getting worsened day by day. While cultivation of sugarcane is considered to consume substantial quantities of water, even with the change in landscape of sugar production, the sugar factories continue to draw fresh water to meet their processing needs.

Despite the fact that sugarcane itself contain 68-72% of water which becomes available during processing and can be recycled and reused, many sugar factories in the country keep on consuming significant quantity of fresh water and also discharge treated effluent in significant quantities. During the crushing season 2022-23, survey of 147 sugar factories situated in subtropical India indicates fresh water consumption and effluent discharge to be in the range of 50-80 liters/ton and 150-180 liters per ton of sugarcane crushed respectively.

This calls for urgent measurable action to save this precious water when the sugar industry is now crushing about 300 MMT of sugarcane every year. Hence, while for the sugar complexes, need of the hour is to have a closed loop system to achieve “ZFC” and “ZLD, in case of standalone sugar factories, while reducing the fresh water consumption, the quality of the treated effluent is to be maintained such so as to use it for multiple purposes viz. as irrigation water, for coping up with other needs and even for potable purposes stressed Prof. Mohan.


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