Cement industry turning green

Cement industry turning green
Published: 19 December 2005

Leading environmental NGO Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has awarded the Indian cement industry its "Three Green Leaves" rating for reducing pollution but feels it needs to clean up its mining practices. Only one company - Madras Cement Limited’s Alathiyur Works near Chennai - has been awarded the prestigious "Four Leaves Award", becoming the first Indian plant in India to receive this honour. The Gujarat plant of Gujarat Ambuja Cement Limited bagged the second spot, while the third spot was shared by three companies - JK Lakshmi Cement Limited, Prism Cement Limited and ACC’s Gagal Cement Works.

"The sector has scored high because of the initiatives it has taken to reduce its air pollution and the fact that it is today one of the world’s most energy-efficient cement producers," said CSE director Sunita Narain here Friday.

Grasim Industries Limited of Aditya Birla group, which has 22 percent of the market share of this booming industry, was rated mediocre by CSE. The next biggest company, the prestigious Associated Cement Companies (ACC) Limited, now jointly owned by Holcim and India’s Ambuja Group, scored less than 35 per cent marks as a group.However, the group’s Gagal plant located in Himachal Pradesh was rated India’s third best plant.

Privately owned India Cements Limited, the fourth largest cement seller in the country, was given the lowest rank. Global cement leader Lafarge could only manage the sixth position.
CSE’s rating was done on the basis of a study covering 41 top producers and comprising 80 percent of the sector. In comparison with CSE’s earlier rating of the pulp and paper, chemical and automobiles industries, the cement industry scored higher marks.

"While the (cement) industry has earned credit for reducing energy use and pollution, it has been indicted for its bad mining practices. The fact is that India ’s cement industry spends as little as four per cent of its turnover on the cost of its raw material - limestone," Narain said.

Limestone mining is leading to huge environmental problems, including the depletion of groundwater, the CSE study found. Said Narain: "Since mining regulations in the cement industry are poor, the sector is increasingly becoming a major source of pollution." Rules on the location of mines are so poorly implemented that many mines are located close to wildlife sanctuaries and reserve forests. The CSE study found 44 per cent of mines were located in ecologically sensitive areas.
Narain also called for better waste management through larger use of fly ash for production of cement. "The industry should utilise as much as 40 per cent of the total fly ash generated and solve a major waste disposal problem. But today they are using only 12 per cent."