'The government is of the view that distilleries around Hapur and Bijnor would pollute groundwater in the vicinity and its spill over into the sacred Ganga. Hence, we are looking to close these distilleries to prevent them from discharging water into the open area,' said a senior UP government official.
Dilip Kumar Jha/Business Standard reports
The Uttar Pradesh government plans to close 13 distilleries in Hapur and Bijnor districts for three months during the Kumbh period between December 15, 2018, and March 15, 2019.
Confirming the development, a senior state government official said, “Discussions are underway to close down all distilleries in and around Hapur and Bijnor, around 600 kilometres away from Prayagraj, due to fear of water pollution during the mela (Kumbh).”
Water in the Ganga, which rises in the western Himalayas, passes through Hapur and Bijnor. Thus, there are fears of polluting the groundwater and the Ganga as well. The Prayagraj Ardh Kumbh is scheduled to take place between January 15 and March 4 next year.
“The government is of the view that distilleries around Hapur and Bijnor would pollute groundwater in the vicinity and its spill over into the sacred Ganga. Hence, we are looking to close these distilleries to prevent them from discharging water into the open area,” said a senior government official.
While a majority of them are independent distilleries, some of them are attached to sugar mills. This means, closure of both independent and attached distilleries would result in automatic shutdown of sugar mills.
While the capacity of these sugar mills and distilleries are not immediately ascertained, the official said these units are owned by large sugar mills, including Bajaj Hindusthan, Simbhaoli Sugar Mills, Dwarikesh Sugar Industries, Dhampur Sugar and Birla Sugar.
The Indian Sugar Mills Association estimates a rise in cane and sugar output in UP. But, the closure for three months during the peak crushing season would prove a major blow for farmers, who need to transport cane to faraway mills in the vicinity. Sugar mills have also invested immensely in these units. Their closure would result into a massive loss on continued fixed cost and depreciation from the plant and machinery.
“Distilleries, in and around Hapur and Bijnor, are given licence on ‘zero discharge’. This means neither they take nor release water from the system. Hence, there is no question of water pollution. The closure would make it difficult to handle molasses and, therefore, lead to automatic shut down of sugar mills,” said a top executive of a leading sugar mills in Bijnor.
ISMA in its second advanced estimates has forecast an increase in cane acreage in UP due to sowing of high-yielding cane -- Co0238 -- variety, resulting in 1-1.5 million tonnes of additional output this year. Despite untimely rainfalls and water logging in fields this year, overall sugar output is estimated at 12.1 million tonnes.
Meanwhile, the sugar industry has strongly opposed the proposed move. Mills across these two districts plan to take the state to court, for which they are waiting for the closure order.
“We are waiting for the government to issue orders to close factories in Hapur and Bijnor. Once they come, we would seek intervention from the court,” said the executive quoted above.