Monday, July 02, 2007

Let Us Make 'Green' Steel

India is already the seventh largest steel manufacturer in the world making 44 million tonnes of steel during the year 2006 and is aspiring to catapult to the second position by the year 2020 with a production capacity of 180 million tonnes. While such targets have caused excitement and euphoria, little has been heard or talked about what impact the massive steel industry expansion would have on the environment.
The whole world has accepted the contention that development should never take place at the cost of environment; it is high time that such issues are discussed and settled here too. Due to stringent environment laws prevalent in USA and Europe, steel units have fallen from grace of general public as one of the main culprits for environmental degradation and have closed down unable to make steel economically.
While India has got an enviable iron ore reserves which ought to be exploited fully for its own economic growth and providing job opportunities to the millions of jobseekers, we cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the environmental issues while planning to boost steel production capacity four-fold within a span of just 12 years.
The environmental damage can be somewhat controlled if steel is brought under eco-labelling umbrella. A license is granted to a product based on a basket of criteria including sources and types of raw materials used, judicious use of natural resources, energy-saving production processes, waste management and the product's bio-degradability. Though the general public is somewhat aware of ISI mark as a sign of quality assurance given by Bureau of Indian Standards(BIS) to a wide range of products such as consumer products, consumer durable products and iron and steel products, it is still not known to many that BIS also issues EcoMark which is an eco-labelling scheme. There are already 16 product categories covered by it which includes electrical goods, lubricating oils, textiles and plastic products but not steel products so far. Interestingly, BIS does not charge anything for EcoMark for those manufacturers who have licenses for ISI mark.
For the sake of protecting environment, let our steel manufacturers produce 'green' steel with with EcoMark labels. Merely making steel to IS specifications will not suffice to vouch for their social responsibility to protect the environment. The new generation steel consumers may insist on buying only 'green' steel as the awareness grows and everyone's 'carbon' footprint is closely watched.

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