The ‘green’ side of chemistry
The chemical industry, despite contributing significantly to the country’s development, has earned a bad reputation of being an atmospheric polluter. Even though this sector is less responsible for pollution compared to other sectors such as automobile, power generation etc., it is still accused of being a major polluter—an allegation it is working hard to shake off.
As a first step towards correcting this image, the concept of sustainable development has assumed immense significance in the Indian chemical industry, with various greening initiatives already underway. Considering that the industry caters to several end-user segments such as automobile, construction etc., it has become necessary to use chemicals that do not have a hazardous impact on the environment.
On the sidelines of India Chem 2010 Srikant Jena - Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilisers, drew attention to the fact that being a signatory to the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), which demands minimisation of any hazardous impact on the environment and living beings while manufacturing chemicals by 2020, India must strive to meet the SAICM objectives even before the set deadline.
Mr Jena also pointed to the fact that keeping in mind present-day consumer preferences, the industry has to devise environment- friendly chemicals to meet consumer requirements. For instance, considering the
increasing demands for compact and energyefficient cars, chemicals compatible for
use in this auto segment are being manufactured in bulk.
Further, Mr Jena drew attention to green construction — the latest buzz in the infrastructure industry — for which environment-friendly materials have to be used in order to avoid causing hazardous effects on the environment. In fact, he also noted that agrochemicals are now manufactured in a manner that minimises adverse impact on crops.
This aspect of sustainable development in the field of chemistry is receiving heightened attention from all sections — government, policy-makers, scientists, academicians, corporates and the society at large. In this context, Rajeev Betne – Senior Coordinator, Chemicals and Health Programme at Toxics Link, shares his opinion that with chemicals playing a pivotal role in our daily life, the awareness level about their harmful effects has to go up among consumers, market intelligence personnel as well as industry insiders. He added that there is a need for proper regulation and policy enforcement to discipline the industry.
It is heartening to note that most companies have started undertaking efforts such as proper management of toxic wastes, reduced greenhouse gas emissions as well as reduced energy consumption, with an aim to reduce their environmental footprint.
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