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‘No Dearth of Technology in Water Industry’

“Pricing of water is the core of problems for water treatment industry. However there is no scarcity of technology or capability”, feels Sandeep CK, Vice President – Corporate Marketing, Ion Exchange (India) Ltd
 
How big is India’s water treatment industry and where does it stand on the global map?
India’s water industry is estimated at around Rs. 12,000 to 15,000 crore for industrial water treatment and waste water treatment alone. A much larger market exists in the municipal water treatment and sewage treatment.
 
While the overall market size is relatively lower compared to highly developed economies like that of the United States, it is about half that of the market size that exists in countries like China.
 
Do we have enough water treatment plants in the country, to meet the growing demand from the industrial sector? If not, why is the country still lagging behind in this area?   
The industries typically depend on treatment of fresh water from rivers & lakes and usually have their own captive treatment plants. Capacity of existing water treatment plants in the municipal sector is not a major constraint, though availability of water and efficiency in the existing plants are a matter of concern. The industry is now looking at alternate resources of water which include recycled effluent, recycled city sewage and treated sea water. Additionally many communities still lack sufficient water and sanitation.
 
How far the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974; the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977 and the Environment (Protection) Act 1986 have succeeded in making water treatment mandatory and assisted the growth of water treatment industry?
I presume these refer to waste water treatment. While installation of waste water treatment equipment are being made mandatory by these laws, the cost of water in many parts of the country which is still subsidized do not make recycling an option in these areas.
 
What do you think are the deficiencies in the current policy framework, in addressing the country’s water treatment requirements?
The biggest concern is the pricing of water leading to the problems such as:
•      Unavailability of water in most urban and semi urban centres due to indiscriminate use
•      Poor having to pay more for water than the rich
•      No incentive for recycling and recovery
•      Poor operation and maintenance of existing utilities leading to low efficiency.
 
Do you think that more policy initiatives are required to propel the water treatment industry? If yes, on which lines?
Yes. By removing the subsidy on water, the users have to pay the true price of water to encourage conservation and of recycle and reuse of water. This will also lead to more investment in these utilities as well as bringing in sufficient revenue to ensure efficient operation and maintenance for the existing public utility. This will also ensure adequate attractiveness for private investors in these areas.
 
Is it advisable to turn to the public-private-partnership (PPP) model to set up water treatment plants and distribution systems? If yes, why? How far would it boost the growth prospects of water treatment industry?
Private partnership in the water space especially in public utility is expected to bring in new technology and improve efficiency of operations leading to better supply and accountability. However, this is possible only if the pricing issues are addressed.
 
How established is the country’s water treatment equipment industry? Is it in a position to meet the growing requirements of water treatment industry?
Water Treatment Industry is very well established in India and there is no dearth of either technology or capability.
 
Would you brief us about the advancements or innovations happening in the water treatment equipment industry? Are Indian equipment manufacturers up-to-date with these trends and innovations?
There is significant investment by most leading companies in the area for development of new products and processes. The equipment manufacturers have the capability to offer the latest technology in this area either through in-house development or through strategic alliances with other companies. Most innovations are towards obtaining better quality of treated water, lowering environmental footprint which includes consumption of less power, less chemical and no effluent generation.
 
It is learnt that water treatment market is moving gradually from chemical treatment and demineralisation plants to membrane technology. What are its advantages? Looking ahead, what all advancements you foresee?
Membrane technologies do offer benefits of being cleaner to operate and also having ability to handle high loads
of dissolved impurity. The increased demand for recovery of waste water, sea water desalination and increased water salinity levels in ground water are all driving the need for membrane products which are efficient at catering to these needs. The growth is typically in two areas – Ultra filtration and Reverse Osmosis.
 
Demineralisation Plants will continue to be the technology of choice for numerous applications including water treatment due to its ability to absorb shocks & ease of operation.
 
Can you elaborate on the company’s initiatives in this business area and your future plans in this segment?
Ion Exchange will continue to invest in technology and develop products that offer better value to customers in terms of lowered costs of operation, lower wastage/waste generation. We will focus on offering a complete package of solutions involving water treatment, waste water treatment and recovery combined with effective operation and maintenance with our special formulated chemicals (cooling water, boiler water, polyelectrolytes) to improve water management and maximize value for the client.

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