Moradabad, located 180 km west of Delhi is a district headquarter town in Uttar Pradesh. It was established in 1600 by Murad Baksh, the son of the Mughal Emperor Shahjahan, which resulted in the city being named as Moradabad. The city is located on the banks of River Ramganga and is known for its arts, crafts and metalware industries. The metal crafts cluster of Moradabad is one of the oldest producing clusters in India, the origins of which can be traced back to 1700.

The credit for developing the city’s handicraft heritage goes to the family of artisans and blacksmiths (mostly belonging to the Mughal army), who settled down in Moradabad during the Mughal period. By the eighteenth century, the city had established trade links with countries like Egypt, Turkey and Persia. The city is known as “Peetal Nagri” (“Brass City”) for its extensive use of the raw material. British rule also had a strong influence. The industry reached its peak in the 19th century when the British promoted this art form to foreign countries in Europe.

The metalware cluster mainly produces decorative and household items such as metal lamps, candles, pillar holders, decorative curtains and napkin rings. The process of making these products includes various activities, for example: pattern making, metal casting, polishing, degreasing, welding and finishing. These processes generate waste in the form of solid, liquid and gaseous pollutants.

In the metalware manufacturing process, pollution is caused by a number of things including: burning hard coal in a pit furnace, buffing, polishing, fugitive emissions, captive power generation, electroplating, degreasing of iron products and powder coating. Effluent generated from the brass industry comprises mainly of zinc, copper, chromium, nickel and lead. Electroplating discharge mainly adds chromium and nickel while smelter units add cadmium.

Under the HSBC-supported ‘Rivers for Life, Life for Rivers’ programme, WWF-India along with Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) – Kanpur and the metalware industry have developed a strategy to implement cleaner technologies in Moradabad’s electroplating industries.                                                                               

As a result, water consumption can now be reduced by 60-80% just by using a three stage counter current mechanism. Reduced water consumption results in a lower pumping cost and less volume of effluent being generated, which is therefore much less polluting. The counter current rinsing system with water quality alarm costs between Rs. 40,000 to 60,000 (approx.£430-650) based on the specifications and the operating cost is very small because the system is based on gravity flow.

A counter current rinsing system installed by WWF-India

WWF-India has set up 10 counter current mechanism pilots across export houses, household units and in the Metal Handicrafts Service Centre (MHSC) which caters to a large number of metalware units. Data collected on water savings across the units using the counter current mechanism has indicated water savings in the range of 60-80%.

This has reduced the volume of effluent generated and is creating a positive impact on the ecosystem with less groundwater withdrawals. It is important to note that Moradabad and its population of close to one million depends on groundwater for meeting their water needs. Groundwater is therefore a major source of water for all sectors – agricultural, domestic and industry.

The Ramganga river is fed by groundwater and as a result, this means that over-extraction of groundwater will inevitably impact the river. Groundwater use savings can, in fact, positively impact the flow of the river in the long term.

In order to reduce the pollution load, WWF-India is working towards promoting effluent treatment plants. The cost of one 1 KLD plant is about Rs. 1.5 to 2 Lakhs. The operational cost can be as low as Rs. 0.07 per litre of effluent treatment. These are very nominal amounts.

During the past two years, WWF-India has trained 550 electroplating units (comprising of 350 household electroplating units and 200 export units) on cleaner technologies, with the aim of reducing the industry’s footprint.

Collaboration with two local consultants in Moradabad for capacity building and technology adoption has, so far, helped in the promotion of cleaner technologies among the industry.

The electroplating industry has been slow in its progress to meet the need to positively change practices. However, things are changing and it is in the interest of NGOs like WWF to engage the industry in moving towards sustainable production practices – not only to enhance competitiveness among businesses but to strengthen efforts in conserving the precious Ramganga.

By Romit Sen, Associate Director, Rivers, Wetlands and Water Policy at WWF-India at WWF-India

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