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As June 5 is celebrated as the Environment Day, Autar Nehru, used the occasion to ask some pertinent questions related to paper that all of us use and often feel guilty of degrading environment with mention of paper.

Anil Kumar,CEO of Shreyans Group & also a past President of IPPTA  (Indian Pulp & Paper Technical Association), celebrating golden jubilee of its inception this year, replies to these questions.

Anil-Kumar-copyPaper remains an important medium for universalization of education especially for those  on the other side of digital divide’

We keep on hearing always that paper is made of wood and therefore when we consume paper, we are actually promoting cutting of more trees? Is it true? If not, then why this perception.

Paper was traditionally made out of wood, therefore an impression has gone round that all paper is made out of wood, thereby cutting the trees. Actually this is not true, especially in case of India only 30% paper is made out of wood and balance 70% is made out of non-wood fibre, including 22% agro residues like wheat straw, bagasse and rice straw and 48% through recycled paper. Even in case of paper made out of wood, no natural forest, as defined under Forest Act, are used for this purpose. Total requirement of wood is met through social forestry, supported by paper industry, has encouraged afforestation on almost one million hectare of land belonging to marginal and small farmers, who are provided with complete technical support for growing high yield eucalyptus and other varieties of trees. In most of the cases even high yield saplings are provided by the industry and after maturity wood is purchased by paper industry at the prevailing market rates. This has given dual advantage, in as much as, that availability of raw material for paper industry has increased, on the other hand it has provided additional source of income to the farmers. Even otherwise as a matter of fact worldwide paper industry grows more trees than it uses for production of paper, therefore paper industry as a destroyer tree cover is factual incorrect.

In India per capital consumption of paper is very less compared to developed countries. At the same time we’re an emerging economy and naturally the demand of paper will grow in coming years, how do you see the trend shaping up?

This is true that per capita paper consumption in India is perhaps the lowest in the World and we definitely feel that with increasing emphasis on education sector, more emphasis eco-friendly packaging instead of wooden and plastic crates and also improvement in general standards of living, paper consumption in the country will go up and we expect the consumption level of almost 20 million tonnes by 2020 and 25 million tonnes by 2025 as compared to 12 to 13 million tonnes as on date.

Recycling of paper is very important to meet this demand but we don’t seem to be equipped or have a system in place to do that substantially? Do you agree? What steps need to be taken both at society level and government action?

This is also true that our waste paper collection systems are grossly inadequate and our total collection is in the range of 20% to 25% of waste paper generated in the country against significantly higher figure of 55% to 70% in most of the developed countries. Industry Associations and also Central Government are seized of the matter and a study has already been instituted to work out a demonstration project in Delhi and NCR area for improving waste paper collection systems, which would include segregation of domestic and official waste. Its generation level, Both social and administrative, measures would be required to achieve this goal. However, there is difference of opinion for giving any legal shape to such steps.

Schools and children studying therein are very sensitive to environment concerns as the subject is a big theme for their activities, debates, plays etc. What do you want to tell them about paper industry and how can they contribute while retaining their sensitivities?

This is a good suggestion. As discussed during last IPPTA deliberations, industry plans to start an information campaign, especially at School and College levels to make aware the upcoming generation regarding eco-friendliness and green nature of this product and doing away with mis-conception that consumption of paper means degradation of natural resources especially the forest cover.

Unsustainable forestry is a major issue, but do paper forests exist in India? If not, then with such kind of sunshine and employment opportunities, why aren’t we going for plantation in a big way. It will save precious foreign exchange and also increase our forest cover besides employment benefits?

This is an issue which has been agitating mind of paper industry for last 30 years. Under the existing forest laws natural forests cannot be utilized for any commercial purposes and this is the reason that enough afforestation is not taking place in the country because any activity which is not economically sustainable is difficult to implement. We have made various representations at different levels to work out a model, which can be based on a multi-stakeholders project involving the industry, local administration and local population to increase investments into afforestation, which will on one hand make available requisite raw material to the industry and on the other hand would ultimately result in better management of forest including increase in forest cover. These recommendations form part of approach paper for 12th Five-Year-Plan but we await any formation on behalf of Government due to sensitive nature of the issue involved.

There is widespread use of newspaper bags or used paper in food packaging from groundnuts to samaos and employees wrapping their lunches. Is it a health hazard?

Use of newspaper bags for food packaging, especially things like samosas and lunches is definitely a health hazards because of chemicals used in printing inks and also no control on nature of raw material, including recycled paper used for manufacture of paper used for newspaper. This use should definitely be discouraged. Obviously, the general low economic condition contributes to such a use where such packing is found cheaper.

A message for teachers and students, and educationist in general where you can see them partners in progress and your goodwill ambassadors?

Our message to teachers and students and educationists in general is that paper industry is a major partner in spread of education worldwide. In our country which is on threshold of a great social revolution especially through programmes like “Sarv Shikhsha Abhyan” i.e. education for all, medium for spread of education, especially at village and small town level will be paper only and not electronic media like iPad, Kindel or like. Basic impression that paper industry is a destroyer of tress and forest cover is not based on facts as stated above. Our beliefs and impressions should be scientific in nature, therefore once we analysed it critically, we will find that a paper is noble product which uses only sustainable and renewable resources and is biodegradable in nature and not otherwise.

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