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Water & Wastewater Treatment Industry Opportunities & Challenges

According to Sandeep Asolkar, Managing Director, SFC Environmental Technologies the market size of water and wastewater treatment plants segment is around Rs. 3000–4000 crores. However he predicts that business will grow at a rate of about 20% for the next 5 years in India backed by the introduction of advanced technologies like C–Tech.
 
Give us a brief overview of your water and wastewater treatment business.
SFC Environmental Technologies Pvt Ltd was established in 2005. SFC is the first Technology Company in India in wastewater treatment. SFC focused on promoting advanced technologies for wastewater treatment. We have had a very good response from the market for our technology and have seen a good growth consistently in the last 5 years. Today SFC is working with all the leading EPC companies in India and has provided C-Tech technology to around 100 sewage and wastewater treatment plants in the country in the last 5 years.
 
SFC Group is the largest Technology Company in the World in the SBR segment with more than 95% market share in India. SFC owns worldwide patents for C-Tech Technology. Apart from India, SFC has set up companies in Austria, Poland, Czech Republic, Dubai, China, Vietnam etc. We are also active and have representatives in 22 other countries like Malaysia, Australia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, South America, Russia, Korea etc. SFC today is the largest Indian multinational technology company.
 
What are the wastewater treatment products and solutions you offer?
SFC Environmental Technologies Pvt. Ltd is a Technology company. SFC has developed and patented several advanced technologies in wastewater and sewage treatment. C-Tech is the latest state-of-the-art 4th generation Cyclic Activated Sludge process developed by SFC.
 
Which are the water treatment technologies recently introduced for industrial applications? And how effective they are?
Two technologies namely SBR and MBR were introduced for wastewater treatment in the recent past. C-Tech (SBR) has about 95% share and all other technologies including MBRs have the remaining 5% market share. Both C-Tech as well as MBRs are highly effective in treating sewage to a very high quality which can be recycled and reused. However C-Tech scores over MBRs in terms of both capital as well as operating costs, ease of operation etc. Though MBRs produce an effluent of a slightly better quality, the capital and the operating costs are disproportionately higher and hence they have found application in niche segments, mainly for smaller industrial plants.
 
Tell us about the C-Tech technology in detail. What are the unique advantages of this C-Tech technology?
C-Tech was launched in India about five years back. This technology has completely changed the way sewage used to be treated in the country. As said earlier we have now around 100 plants coming up all over the country. We have recently launched a remote monitoring package for C-Tech called C-Tech online. This is high-end software developed to monitor, operate and maintain C-Tech plants for any remote location through the internet. There is a huge demand to install this in all the plants, already some of the operating plants have been put on remote monitoring using C-Tech online.
 
C-Tech offers tremendous advantages over other conventional technologies. The treated Sewage from C-Tech is of recyclable quality and the water can be used for all non potable purposes. Apart from the excellent quality of the treated sewage, C-Tech uses almost 50% less land and power. It is fully automatic, the plant can be controlled and monitored from anywhere in the world through internet. It includes various features like co–current Nitrification and De–Nitrification, biological Phosphorous removal (apart from BOD, COD and TSS removals) and has inbuilt controller for power savings. It is also possible to generate power from a C-Tech plant. The capital cost of this technology is lower than all other technologies for producing such quality of water and its operating cost is also the lowest.
 
Sewage treatment plants have become profit centers. Apart from C-Tech, SFC also has patents for Membrane Bio Reactor technology, Municipal Solid Waste Treatment technologies, Power generation technology from biogas and other non-renewable energy sources. SFC also does operation, maintenance and remote monitoring of its plants, hi-tech automation systems, consultancy etc.
 
Have you started any joint venture in recent time?
Two years back we have started a JV company in Vietnam which has met with great success. The company is already constructing 12 plants. Another successful JV which we have started is in the middle-east. That market too has responded very favorably. There are many orders coming in this JV within 6 months of startup.
 
What is the market size for the water and wastewater treatment? And what is your market share?
If we look only at water and wastewater treatment plants, the market size is around Rs. 3000–4000 crores in our opinion. This does not include collection and conveyance. SFC is into the technology segment within this market. Our market share in the technology market is around 95%.
 
How do you see the current trend in water treatment business in India?
The water and wastewater treatment business in India will grow at a rate of about 20% for the next 5 years. There has been a significant technological shift in this business and the customers have moved from conventional treatment method to advanced technologies like C-Tech. We feel that this shift will get stronger. More and more customers will go in for high tech plants which give excellent treated water quality. We also see a distinct trend towards recycle of the treated sewage and the sewage treatment plants being used as a water resource rather than merely as Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs). This trend has already started in Navi Mumbai where the corporation is planning to sell the treated sewage from its C-Tech plants. CIDCO is already recycling the C-Tech treated water. Others are also following this model and putting up STPs to recycle the treated sewage for cooling towers and other industrial uses.
 
What are the major hurdles the industry is facing today?
The major hurdles the industry is facing is primarily in terms of adequate funding for the water and sewage treatment projects, allocation of land and basic infrastructure to set up these projects and complete them.
 
What are the prime challenges the urban government bodies facing in providing adequate quality water to boost industrial development?
Water is a fast depleting resource. Drinking water has become polluted at several places due to pollution from industries and untreated sewage. Apart from this, fresh water is depleting fast and there is a shortage of water for drinking and agriculture. These two sectors will have to be preferred over the industry as far as water allocation is concerned. Hence, the water available for industry will keep shrinking. The prime challenge for the government is to maintain a balance and make adequate quality water available to the industry to boost industrial development. This can be solved by using advanced treatment technologies like C-Tech and recycling the treated sewage back to the industry. This will directly benefit all the stake holders.
 
The corporations apart from meeting their obligation of treating sewage will minimize pollution by treating the sewage to the highest standard, which will benefit the local population as the quality of environment and the quality of water in rivers and creeks will improve, ground water contamination will reduce. The corporation can then sell this treated sewage and generate revenue. This will help the corporation to recover the capital as well as operating costs of the sewage treatment, thus the corporations will make revenue and benefit. Today a STP is a cost center only with no income generation. By selling treated sewage to the industry, the corporation can save precious drinking water which can be used to provide good quality drinking water to the people and for agriculture and finally industry will get adequate quantity of good water and at much lower rates than what is charged today; so the industry too will benefit. With this approach, we feel the entire challenge can be easily met.

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