Maruti Suzuki hell bent on saving water at their Gurgaon plant

India has been battling its worsening shortage of water and in turn industries in India are beginning to implement ways to use/reuse their water supplies.

Industries are responding to water experts’ heavy pressure on conservation of water. At New Delhi’s Water India Forum in 2011, Arjun Thapan, Senior Special Advisor on infrastructure and water to the ADB (Asian Development Bank), named the current situation as “unremittingly bleak” in India. He told the vast number of representatives representing their industries who had gathered on the occasion that industries should change their water usage methods in order to avoid a ‘train wreck.’ Thapan said he frankly doesn’t believe India had a choice and that it should reform. He feared India’s water demand in 2030 had been estimated at an alarming 1500 billion m3 (cubic meters), which is the double that would be used in China, where China would use 818 billion m3.

World Bank feels traditionally, agriculture has been the highest consumer of water, and in no time industries would take over that position. This means the demand for water in industries would be four folds from the currently 30 billion m3 used to about roughly 120 billion m3 by 2025.

Experts do agree on this. According to World Water Development Report (UNDP) of 2003, industries did account for about 22% of freshwater consumption globally in 2004. They feared that this percentage would double in the coming years. The report says the demand for more industrial water is highest in faster developing countries such as India. It further told if the manufacturing industries did migrate to developed nations, it would only intensify the pressure for more water sources.

Taking these facts into consideration, Thapan did urge Indian industries to be enthusiastic in their responses to a more unserved multimillion dollars market. He feels bigger industries should take initiatives to develop pretreatment facilities on the site to use and reuse waste water they generate. This would certainly reduce their dependence on groundwater with groundwater being the most importance source of water for industrial sites and megacities.

The ongoing progress has been quite slow, though some of the manufacturers did make significant water footprint reductions. Maruti Suzuki did start the WWP (water waste programme) sometime in the 1990s, and by 2003 did achieve 0 waste discharge. This means that no water would leave the premises in Gurgaon Plant. All the water that is used there in the plant let alone sewage, rainwater or effluent is cleansed and pumped right back to the system.

Due to this, the plant could make impressive claims. Consumption of water has gone down to 62% since Maruti implemented its policy on water conservation and Deputy Manager of the plant L.N. Rao told that consumption of freshwater has been reduced by about 35% with the adopted measures.

He believes the system is complicated and comprehensive too. The system’s nerves lies at the plant meant for water treatment in the 300-acre facility. This does control everything that is happening around the facility from freshwater demineralisation for spray guns utilised in paint shop to acid doses to effluents, which certainly helps to restore the pH balance.

Fresh water is taken by the plant from the nearby canal that is a branch of the river Yamuna. Previously, the plant did rely on borewell for groundwater, but Rao says since depletion of water was evident, they did give a serious thought about it. He tells borewells are still in use, but are only used marginally by Maruti in order to avoid silting up of the pumps.

At the moment, Rao told that the plant is consuming about 3500 m3 of freshwater per day from the canal, and the limit per Government is 190 m3 per hour. He says about half the water is chlorinated, cleaned, consumed for drinking and ozonated. Around 1500 m3 is circulated around the plant for numerous cooling processes through air washers. The workshop’s waste is subsequently pumped back for reintroduction and cleaning into the system for treatment. Physical particles are separated from effluents by a big tank, and it does pump the clean water for other chemical adjustments. The sludge that is remaining would be reduced to grey sediment, chromium mixture, old paint, lead and various factory wastes.

Rao says improvements are seen gradually, but they are still ongoing. He says there wasn’t much incentive for a manufacturer to undertake this, but simply was a case of environmental awareness. He added they look into each process individually like cooling of the welding guns that make a car’s body, and they had air cooling towers, which saves water. He said electricity is consumed, but that water conservation was important here. He said they were looking into utilising more effective blades for it now.

He tells they incorporate the Japanese idea called ‘kaizen,’ which means continuous improvement.

Rao has an experience of 30 years working in the plant and believes they would achieve significant long-term benefits. He tells industry wise they are on top in India and whatever costs they were paying today could be accumulated in the years to come.

He told, however, that he knows there was more work to be accomplished. He said their next focus would be on reduction of consumption of drinking water that’s being used at 10 to 15%. He told the concern at present was water, and it was getting scarce and proving to be more expensive. He feels whatever they are achieving so far wasn’t enough, but they are continuously hell bent upon exploring new ways for better improvement.

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