Turbaashu Bhattacharya, Business Head of the Mumbai based company Roserve Enviro Pvt Ltd recently undertook a visit to Bangladesh to create awareness about the concept of “Pay-Per-Use” in the industrial wastewater management field for all the Ready-Made Garment (RMG) industries operating there. Mayur Sharma interacted with him about this visit.
Q. You have recently visited Bangladesh. How is the water market shaping up there, specifically the industrial water segment?
Mr. Bhattacharya: Roserve Enviro recently undertook a visit to Bangladesh to create awareness about the concept of “Pay-Per-Use” in the industrial wastewater management field for all the Ready-Made Garment (RMG) industries operating there.
Bangladesh is a leader in the textile sector with the RMG industry next only to China in terms of export volumes. In the textile sector, dyeing and washing are water-intensive processes with waste-water treatment plants (ETPs) made mandatory for all factories and with our customized solutions for industries, we found a lot of scope for recycling across the sector. Primarily, two types of water resources namely surface and groundwater make up the bulk of Bangladesh’s water sources. A total of 95% of the domestic and industrial water supplies and 70% of the irrigation supplies are drawn from groundwater. Despite the monsoon rainfall which replenishes the groundwater aquifer levels, the water layer is decreasing per year at a steady rate, and industries which used to source their water requirements from groundwater are being forced to bore deeper for their motorized tube wells.
RMG sector is one of the key contributors to water demand, 98% of which is sourced underground. The estimated water consumption in the textile sector is estimated to be 4,027 Million Liters per Day (MLD). The World Bank estimates the annual water demand to reach 6,788 MLD for the textile sector by 2030.
Garments and textile market size is USD 30.61 billion worth of exports, employing an estimated 4.2 million workers. There are approximately 2,500-3,000 factories in the RMG and textile industry sector. The growth prospects are medium, as the apparel sector has registered 8.76% growth in 2017-18.
Q. Tell us about some of the recent industrial market trends there.
Mr. Bhattacharya: One of the notable incidents in the industry is the Rana Plaza industrial accident which started a wave of workplace safety compliance reforms. Currently, one prominent trend in the industry is setting up or converting factories into ‘green buildings’ and getting certified as LEED factories. While the factory workplace reformation was a reactive event, in response to the Rana Plaza tragedy; the green factory initiative is proactive for many players. Currently, there are 72 LEED-certified factories in Bangladesh. This trend shows the transition of the apparel industry towards sustainable practices in a proactive manner. Therefore, opportunities for promoting environment-friendly technologies in water conservation will align with the industries outlook for sustainable and greener technologies. However, in the end, since a factory management is price-sensitive in nature, the business case for promoting such technologies is mandatory.
Wastewater treatment, in the fabric production phase at the textile factories, is estimated to consume 50% of the overall water usage in this sector. In this phase, the most water-intensive part of the production process is the wet processing component in the fiber processing factories, accounting for almost 85% of the water consumed.
Bangladesh has approximately 2,000-2,500 factories in the garments industry. Of them, roughly 10% or 200-250 are top-tiers meaning they work directly with the global clients complying with safety standards and policies for work regulation. There are almost 500 to 700 wet processing units dedicated to the Washing, Dyeing, and Finishing (WDF) of textiles. Around 70% of WDF textile units are located around or in Dhaka, and the remaining units are in Mymensingh and Chittagong.
A study analyzing effluent data from 2005 to 2014, found that the major three textile oriented industrial areas – Savar, Narayangonj, Gazipur are severely affected by textile effluent. Since textile processing and dyeing are the most water-intensive process in RMG manufacturing, this segment is being targeted. Textile industries consume high volumes of water per unit of fabric. In 2016, an estimated 217-million-meter cube (m3) of wastewater was produced for manufacturing 1.80 million metric tonnes of fabrics. In 2021, it is estimated that 349-million-meter cube (m3) of wastewater will be produced using conventional dyeing practices.
Q. Which plants or industrial areas you visited during this visit?
Mr. Bhattacharya: During our current visit, we undertook tours of a few RMG factories in Dhaka and Chittagong. We gave a presentation to the management team at these factories and visited their Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP) locations to study in detail about the entire layout, the process of treatment and the final quality of water at the outlet. In Dhaka, we visited the factory of a leading medium-sized player in the Dyeing segment in Gazipur and did a thorough study of their Physio-Chemical ETP plant and suggested inputs for recycling which was well taken by the management.
During our Chittagong visit, one of the leading Denim players in Bangladesh was very enthused about our service-based model and we undertook a visit to their ETP operations as well as the washing process to understand how the water consumption could be reduced and recycle done so that the water could be reused back in the process. The second factory we visited was excited about the implementation of Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) solutions to showcase itself as a model factory for the RMG sector in Bangladesh. We had very fruitful discussions with them on our model and technology and we are hopeful that we’ll able to work out a very cost-effective ZLD solution for them.
Q. Do you think Roserve’s solutions would be cost-effective for the needs of Bangladesh?
Mr. Bhattacharya: Our pay per use model is very cost-friendly for all the industries, as we are not putting any initial investment cost for the client. That is important for any kind of business because they don’t have to do any kind of investment. This kind of technology needs to be upgraded every 3-4 years, especially ZLD technologies. Here through our model, we are saying we are going to take care of everything, be it a technology upgrade we will handle it with a very nominal additional cost. You don’t have to worry about the cost portion, we will give you the best possible solution, and at the same time if there is an upgrade we will take you to the next level of tech. In terms of cost, no initial investment, only the running cost as well as the cost for the recovery of the capital investment is to be paid and this is going to be as per the norms of the industry. We cannot go beyond a certain norm and be out of the market in terms of cost economics. I can say it with confidence that cost will not be a factor for industries that want to go for Zero-Liquid Discharge. ZLD is very expensive, but at the same time, we can say since they need not worry about the tech, they can go for it leaving aside the operational worries to experienced people like us to take care and manage it for them. The cost factor can always be discussed, and the best possible solution can be worked out accordingly. We can also devise recycling solutions utilizing minimum space incl. Containerized systems with nominal additional cost to ensure minimum area footprint because space is a constraint for RMG factories in Bangladesh.
Q. Do you have some international project experience as well?
Mr. Bhattacharya: Roserve is a start-up, operating for the last 3 years. We started our operations in October 2016, and currently, we are operating in India. But if you look at our parents, DCIF, which is part of the Government of Denmark and the other partner being Concord Enviro Pvt Ltd – you can safely say that we are leaders in the field of wastewater recycling and treatment. Concord Enviro Pvt Ltd is a company which is in the field of wastewater management since the last 25 years and was founded in 1992, and it operates across the globe. We have got around 1200 installations in India operating under the brand name of Rochem and more than 600 installations across other countries outside India. We have been very successful with our Plate & Tube RO membrane model of recycling, and that is how I think DCIF got confidence to form a joint venture with Concord Enviro. Our current scope of operations encompasses places in Africa, South East Asia, Middle East, and some places in Europe.
Q. Finally, how will you conclude the outcome of this visit?
Mr. Bhattacharya: Looking at the overall RMG sector in Bangladesh, we can safely conclude that the industries are open to the trial of new technologies subject to cost-effectiveness and a proper business case. We feel that this is the right moment for the industries to focus on our innovative “Pay-Per-Use” solution saving initial Capex investment while at the same time meeting their wastewater discharge norms as per regulations.
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