Green Articles

Best Iron and Steel Company in India Gets Average Score, Sector is Rated Poor

India’s iron and steel sector has a long way to go in meeting environmental norms, finds Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) Green Rating Survey released on the eve of World Environment Day.

  • India's Iron and Steel SectorTwenty one top steelmakers rated by CSE’s Green Rating Project. Sector receives low marks for its overall environmental compliance, compared to other sectors rated by CSE.
  • Planning Commission Deputy Chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests (Independent Charge) Jayanthi Natarajan release the ratings.
  • Three companies share the top award – though their performance can only be termed as ‘average’.
  • The findings have implications for the expansion plans of this core sector. If performance remains as poor, then growth will come at the cost of environment and lead to protest and unacceptable degradation.
  • Findings lead us to ask: is Indian industry’s concern for the environment on a downslide?
  • CSE says the sector has huge potential to improve; presents a road map for improvement in efficiency and green performance. 

New Delhi
 The iron and steel industry in India is struggling to meet environmental norms. While some plants and companies are making efforts to clean up their acts, the sector’s overall environmental performance is poor. It is using up enormous quantities of resources (land, water, energy, raw materials), polluting and not complying with even the weak environmental norms that exist today, and getting away doing all this because of our lax regulatory and monitoring capabilities.

This assessment of the iron and steel sector in India has emerged from a unique rating of the industry done by Centre for Science and Environment’s Green Rating Project (GRP). The ratings were released on June 4 by Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairperson, Planning Commission, and Jayanthi Natarajan, Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests (Independent Charge).

The GRP has analyzed all the top steelmaking plants in the country to find out how ‘green and clean’ the sector is – how much resources it uses, how much it emits, how it disposes its wastes, and how it deals with issues of local communities.

CSE’s Green Rating Project is a 15-year old programme – the only public disclosure programme of its kind in India – which was envisaged as a tool to push for improvement in policy and practices in industrial sectors. It does this by assessing, rating and publishing the environmental and social performance of the companies.

The Project has already rated the automobile, paper, chlor-alkali and cement sectors; iron and steel is the fifth key industrial sector rated by it. In all the sectors, GRP’s efforts have led to significant improvements in environmental performance of companies and better environment policy formulation by the government.

What the Rating Found 

The GRP rating process is rigorous, independent, participatory and transparent. The GRP rates companies that agree to participate voluntarily as well as those who do not. Data is collected from many sources, including industry, and verified by plant and site visits.

On the basis of its findings, the Project also confers the Five Leaves Awards on the plants, which are rated the most environmental friendly.

In the case of the iron and steel sector, 21 companies, with over 0.5 million tonnes of annual capacity, were rated on over 150 parameters – from technology to process efficiency and from pollution to occupational health and safety and compliance. The rating of steel sector took two years to complete.

As a whole, the sector received a mere 19 per cent marks and the One Leaf Award. This has to be compared to rating of the an equally polluting sector, cement sector, which in 2005 got 36 per cent and Three Leaves Award. It shows that this core sector, which includes the biggest and most powerful names in Indian industry, has a long way to go.

Of the 21, three companies scored over 35 per cent marks – and got the Three Leaves: they are Ispat Industries, in Raigad district of Maharashtra, Essar Steel in Hazira (Gujarat) and Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited (RINL or Vizag Steel), based in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. The Three Leaves Award represents ‘average’ performance under GRP.

Tata Steel of Jamshedpur was at the fifth spot, while Jindal Steel and Power of Raigarh was at the ninth. SAIL plants in general were found to be non-transparent and non-compliant. Only the SAIL Rourkela plant participated and got a One Leaf Award; the rest – Bhilai, Durgapur, Bokaro and Burnpur – did not participate in the Project voluntarily. Hence, they were rated on the basis of available information and found to be poor.

Other Key Findings of GRP Rating Exercise

  1. The Indian iron and steel sector’s energy consumption of 6.6 GCal/tonne is about 50 per cent higher than the global best practice.
  2. Process water consumption, excluding power generation, townships and other downstream operations, is a high 3.5 m3/tonne – over three times the global best practice.
  3. The large-scale plants were found to be highly wasteful on land. They have close to 1,200 hectares (ha) of land per million tonne of installed capacity; a well-designed plant does not need more than 200 ha. If all the residual land with steel plants were to be properly utilized, the industry can produce more than 300 million tonnes steel, not the 75 million tonnes it is producing today. In fact, the steel industry will not need extra land till 2025.
  4. Most steel plants were found to be non-compliant with pollution norms. 

Says Sunita Narain, Director General, CSE, “The poor environmental performance of this sector is a measure of the failure of the regulatory institutions in the country. Nobody is asking this sector to improve its green bottom-line. Nobody is measuring and monitoring its actual performance. We should not be surprised. The country has worked to decimate its pollution regulatory paraphernalia – the steel sector is a hard reminder of this.”

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