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As Indian Chemical industry grows leaps and bounds, experts opine need for sustainable and judicious growth

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At a time when the world is moving towards more environmental friendly use of resources, and even production-focused countries like China have come up with great reforms in their chemical industry, India is debating how its rapid growth can be converted into responsible growth. Henceforth, “Sustainable and Safe Use of Chemicals and Petro-Chemicals: Environment/Health Care/Safety” was the subject of discussion in the day-long seminar organized by The Week magazine in New Delhi.

“When we are discussing chemicals, we are actually discussing life. We have not changed as we were supposed to change in the changing times. We have reached a stage where if there is no movement, there will be a push. Our growth has to be responsible growth, if we are to progress,” said Mr KC Mishra, an ’83 batch IAS Officer and currently the Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Chemical Change, Govt of India, during his key note address in the inaugural session of the seminar. “We need to acknowledge that there is a problem that need to be solved,” he added.

Earlier, Mr. P. Raghvendra Rao, an ’85 batch IAS officer currently serving as Secretary (Chemicals & Petrochemicals), Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, Govt of India, shared vital information about how the chemicals and petrochemicals industry is growing fast and suggested measures to reduce negative effects of growth. Mr. Rao informed that the centre of gravity of the chemical industry is shifting from West towards Asia, and in particular towards China and India. While the contribution of China was 39%, India’s contribution was merely 4% and added that India’s industry was worth USD 150-160 bn but expected to grow till USD 350 bn out of the world figures of USD 350 trillion. Silver lining is that the Indian chemical industry is expected to grow at more than 9% whereas the world chemical industry is growing at around 5%.

Mr. Rao further said that plastic is not the problem but non-judicious use of plastic is a problem that need to be sorted out. “Waste is definitely wealth in the new concept of circular economy that is emerging,” he added, asking the companies in business to become more responsive to social concerns. He, however, promised full-support to the genuine demands of the industry.

Mr. SK Ray, Executive Secretary, Indian Centre for Plastics in the Environment (ICPE) and the man associated with Reliance, which has huge stakes in chemicals and plastics, stressed that sustainable growth is not possible without taking care of our environment. He however lamented that most of these issues are coming up in developing world whereas many developed countries have been able to develop the issue of chemicals, including managing plastic wastes. Good infrastructure need to be created to manage waste and awareness need to be created among all stakeholders and the public at large to be more concerned about the environment.

Earlier, Mr. Ravi Kapoor, Former President, Indian Chemicals Council (ICC) and MD, Heubach India gave facts and figures informing that India is at present 7th in the world in chemicals and is expected to climb to 4th position by 2030. He stressed that while our chemical industry is set to reach USD 350 bn from the current USD 150 bn, it must take care of environment so as to attain sustainable growth.

The same feelings were echoed earlier by Mr. R Prasannan, Chief of Bureau-Delhi, The Week in his inaugural address. “At a time when India is set to become a production hub for the world, sustainable and safe use of chemicals and petro-chemicals is the need of the hour,” Mr. Prasannan had said. He further informed that The Week Connect was an initiative of The Week magazine to connect with relevant social issues.

Managed by Ramesh S, Consulting Events Editor with The Week Connect, the seminar also had various panel discussions in which corporate and social bigwigs including Mr. Kamal Tandon (Executive Director-GAIL India Ltd.), Dr. Sandesh Kumar Jain (Principal Director & Head CIPET: Institute of Plastics Technology), Mr. Nikhil Deshpande (Sr. Vice President & Head-Sustainable Solutions & Climate Change, Reliance Industries Ltd.), Mr. Nanduri Srinivas (Executive Director, NTPC Ltd.), Mr. SP Mohanty (Chairman & MD, HIL India Ltd.), Dr. Padmini Tolat Balaram (Professor of Design, Head-Department of Silpa-Sadana, Visva-Bharati, Shantiniketan), Mr. Joy Thomas (BDM-Speciality Fluids & MHH-India Region, Electronics Materials Solution Division, 3M), Mr. Piyush Mohapatra (Sr. Program Coordinator – Toxic Links) and Ms. Reena N. Singh (Advocate Supreme Court) participated.

A panel discussion on “Plastic Waste Segregation and Way Forward” had Mr. Ashish Jain (Founder and CEO, Indian Pollution Control Association), Mr. Piyush Mohapatra (Sr. Program Coordinator, Toxic Links), Mr. Mihir Banerji (Chairman, India Plastics Institute) and moderated by Mr. SK Ray of ICPE discussed the trends and possibilities India could adopt in future to segregate and recycle its plastic waste, so as to minimize its harmful effects on the environment.

As Mr. SK Ray aptly summed it up: “As humanity, we have huge experience of handling alternative materials. But synthetic materials like plastics are relatively new, less than 100 years old. It is taking time for society to understand how to use it more responsibly.” However, the industry has woken up to the concern and it will itself take measures to curb the ill-effects, he suggested.

P. Raghvendra Rao, Secretary (Chemicals & Petrochemicals), Department of Chemicals and Petro-Chemicals, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, Govt of India, while delivering the first key note address at the conference on “Sustainable and Safe Use of Chemicals and Petro-Chemicals”, organized by The Week magazine.

India is 7th in the world in chemicals and is poised to be 4th by 2030. We need to take care of our environment, if we need to attain sustainable growth: Ravi Kapoor, Former President, Indian Chemical Council and Managing Director, Heubach India

Mr. R. Prasannan, Chief of Bureau-Delhi, The Week making the inaugural address on “Sustainable and Safe Use of Chemicals and Petro-Chemicals: Environment, Healthcare/Safety” organized by The Week in Delhi today.

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