India: Cement plant blazes a trail

India: Cement plant blazes a trail
Published: 04 December 2007

When she first heard about some entrepreneurs planning to set up a cement factory in her village, 27-year-old Pramila Bauri greeted the news with as much cynicism as one would expect from a villager fearful of losing her plot of land and the pollution-free atmosphere.

Today, Pramila is one of the many happy faces in a group of villagers tasting the fruits of development after decades of neglect. Devendranagar, a few kilometres from Badarpur town of Karimganj district, now not only has a factory that produces 460 tonnes of cement everyday but a jatropha plantation, too.

Pramila works in the jatropha plantation, located on a hill slope near the cement plant, and earns a decent amount every month. “I did not know until the plantation started that jatropha was a source of bio-diesel. I get paid on a monthly basis and am able to bring smiles to my children’s faces with the additional income,” she said.

Barak Valley Cement Ltd, which owns the cement plant, financed the jatropha plantation as part of its social development programme. Apart from working at the plantation, villagers do sundry jobs in the cement plant to supplement their regular earnings. Some of them have undergone on-site training.

“Right from the day the plant was set up in this backward district in 2002, the management of Barak Valley Cement Ltd has been trying to preserve the environment and improve the economic condition of the villagers. It is a win-win situation for everyone,” a senior official of the district administration said.

The senior general manager (administration) of Barak Valley Cement Ltd, Mukesh Agarwal, said the company had removed the apprehensions of villagers about emissions from the plant polluting their environment. “We have always taken care to prevent pollution and installed machinery designed to minimise emission of smoke and ash.”

The company uses biomass as raw material to generate thermal electricity in the 6mw captive power plant near the cement factory.

Barak Valley Cement Ltd recently went public by floating an initial public offer (IPO) of 56,60,000 shares. The capital will be used to increase the cement factory’s output from 460 to 750tpd.