File Copyright Online - File mutual Divorce in Delhi - Online Legal Advice - Lawyers in India

Sugar-Coating Pollution: Unveiling Polluting Sugar Industry Of Uttar Pradesh

Brazil is the biggest manufacturer of sugar in world after which it is the Indian sugar industry that produces the most amount of sugar in the world.[1] At a national level, the sugar industry remains to be the second largest agro based industry with cotton textile being the largest.[2]

The sugar industry carrying social and economic importance is also a source of employment and has impacts on boosting rural economy, generating about 3-4 lacks direct employment and several more indirect employment opportunities in areas such as transport. However, the sugar industry operates only between the cold months of October to march to have maximum yield. Even so, during these six months the sugar industry generates substantial amount of wastewater during the manufacturing process.[3]

It is a common practice by the sugar mills of releasing this wastewater into nearby water bodies which then are used for irrigation by farmers. This is where the destructive and detrimental nature of sugar mills towards the environment begins. This becomes an introspective concern for pollutions when the scale of wastewater being released ranges from 30,000 to 40,000 litres on average for per tons of sugar produced.[4]

What makes Sugar Mill effluents dangerous?

There are three significant pollutants generated from manufacturing of sugar that raise environmental issues: Molasses, Wastewater and Bagasse.

Molasses constitutes about 4.2% of the crushed cane on an average. The highly polluting nature of molasses makes it dangerous for disposal without treatment. (Technical Eia Guidance Manual For Sugar Industry) For putting it into context, we can compare some parameters of nature of Molasses with standards provides by the Minimum National Standards for Sugar Industry.[5]
Parameters Molasses Admissible Effluent Standards for Inland Water Bodies
Colour Dark brown Colourless
Total dissolved solids (mg/l) 2000000-320000 2100
BOD(mg/l) 440000 30
COD(mg/l) 960000 250
Chlorides(mg/l) 15000 600
Sulphates(mg/l) 32000 1000

In every parameter, the standard of molasses exceeds the industry standards by threatening difference making it utterly unfit for direct disposal into the environment. Yet, it is a common practice by industries of disposing/storing molasses in underground pits. However, these pits are usually unlined which during rainy seasons and also raising ground water, gets diluted and are disposed of by factories into near by water bodies causing severe pollution[6].


Dissolved Oxygen: Dissolved oxygen (hereinafter "DO") is often tested to identify any signs of industrial discharge being released into the water, optimal levels of DO are crucial as it aids formation of biological life in waterbodies. According to the standards set by Bureau of Indian Standards (hereinafter "BIS"), the dissolved oxygen of the effluent should range within 4 to 6 mg/lit[7]. However, upon examination of discharges from the factory the DO of unprocessed sewage was recorded at 1.30 mg/lit and of treated effluent at 2.30 mg/lit.[8]

Both being lower than the standards set by BIS to be safe to disposed into open water. If this wastewater is disposed of into fresh water, it will lower the levels of dissolved oxygen in the waterbody restricting its capabilities of forming crucial biological life to maintain the water healthy.

Biochemical oxygen demand (BOD): Micro-organisms present in fresh waterbodies require some level of oxygen which is used by the organisms to decompose organic matter, this is represented by biochemical Oxygen Demand. Upon examining effluent from the factory, it was found that the BOD of untreated effluent was 98 mg/l and BOD of treated effluent was 88 mg/l. Both exceeding the BIS standard that should not exceed 50 mg/l.[9]

The chemical oxygen demand (COD): A higher level of COD would mean high level of toxicity biological matters present in the water. The effluents from the factory were found to have 350 mg/l when untreated and 255 mg/l when treated. With the BIS standard being 250 mg/L, it goes to show how toxic the untreated wastewater can be if released into fresh water. And while the treated wastewater was comparatively better, it was still a little over the BIS standards indicating that the wastewater from the sugar factories at times not safe to be released after undergoing treatment.

Along with the above parameters, the temperature of the effluent often are also high with the colour of effluents being dark brown. According to the Hon'ble National Green Tribunal's standards, the effluents being released from the factories should be colourless. Although the above measurement are from a single factory in Uttar Pradesh, most sugar mill untreated effluents follow the same trend [10].
Parameters Concentration before treatment (mg/L) Guidelines value
BOD 500-800 < 30
COD 1000-1600 < 250
TDS 1000-1200 30 for disposal in surface water
10 for disposal on land
Oil and Grease 5-10 < 10
*source: CPCB


Bagasse is generated as a part of solid wates from sugar mills and most of the bagasse is utilized by the sugar mill itself in its boilers as a fuel. However, the burning of bagasse results in production of fly ash. Fly ash consists of nitrogen oxides, carbon particles and other particulate matter like unburnt fibers.[11]

Along with fly ash, the use of bagasse as a fuel in the boilers emits carbon monoxide, a highly poisonous gas causing health problems in surrounding areas. Along with this, the heavier ash particles settle down and coat nearby areas with a layer of ash. While the lighter particles escape the boilers and can cause irritation of eyes, nose and lungs.

Affected Rivers And Areas In U.P, Pollution From Mills:

Sugar mills and distilleries, which discharge water into the Ganga River, are one of India's 17 most polluting sectors.[12] After the pulp/paper and chemicals industries, the sugar business produces the third most effluent. Water is used extensively during the whole phase, which begins in conjunction with cultivation of sugar cane and end up with discharge of mill waste. Groundwater levels are affected by this process, which has major ramifications for individual wellbeing, businesses, and the ecosystem of local water masses.

The top 56 sugar mills in Uttar Pradesh produce around 32% of the nation's sewer water and flow up to 85.7 million litres per day (MLD) into the river structure.[13] In Uttar Pradesh alone, roughly 23 court cases are recorded in opposition to sugar mills for environmental damage since 2014[14].

In Krishan Kant Singh Anr vs National Ganga River Basin, the appellant had filed an application u/s 14 National Green Tribunal Act. Here the Simbhaoli Sugar Mill and distillery was discharging untreated effluents into the Simbhaoli Drain which then opened into the River Ganga. The release of untreated effluents polluted the ground water of Bauxar, Jamanpur, Syana, Bahadurgarh and Alampur. It was also said to be adversely affecting River Dolphins and Turtles to which the River Ganga served as a habitat.[15]

Simbhaoli Sugar Mill was fined 50 million Indian rupees ($670,000) for contaminating the Ganga River, despite having a daily output capacity of 1,000 million tonnes. At its Ramkola and, more lately, Rampur mills, Triveni was embroiled in various court actions for suspected violations of environmental standards. With the correct equipment, an overflow management plant division would be capable to deal with its hazardous wastewater containing chemicals.[16]

National Green Tribunal (NGT):

'The 13 Common Effluent Treatment Plant's (CETP) capacity utilisation is exceedingly low. Only 60-65 million litres per day (MLD) are treated out of a total capacity of 212 MLD. This is primarily due to the plants receiving insufficient wastewater, with a flow of just 48-50 MLD, which eventually pollute the Yamuna.'[17] In Delhi, there are 33 recognised industrial clusters with roughly 31,000 industrial units, 17 of which have water polluting units connected to the 13 CETPs.

According to a account succumbed by NEERI to the NGT-board[18], which was tasked with inspecting manufacturing groups, the quantity of developed sewage discovered in pipes in a mass was double the quantity of sewage getting in the CETP in many areas such as Wazirpur, U.P. This is clearly indicating that companies that do not transfer all sewage emissions to CETPs or unauthorised units operating inside the clusters that are involved in water pollution. According to the statement, this is concerning since wastes were allowed to contaminate the water without control.

Stricter norms for effluent discharge from sewage treatment plants:

The National Green Tribunal has ordered to adopt stronger standards for sewage treatment plant effluent discharge (STPs). The green panel stated that waste emission standards suggested for super and urban towns will be valid to the rest of the nation and to issue a notification in this regard within a month.[19] It said that water quality requirements must be the same for residents of big cities and other cities.

The tribunal ruled that the criteria should be applied immediately not just to latest STPs, but in addition to current structure STPs, and that 'providing seven years' time is unacceptable'. 'There is no reason for separate requirements for residents of towns more than super and urban cities.' Most of the nation's population will be harmed by lowered standards, with only those in mega and metropolitan areas having comparatively better standards for no good reason.[20]

The Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) level is 10, pH varies from 5.5 to 9.0, Total Suspended Solids is 20, Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) is 50, and the acceptable Faecal Coliform level is 230 per 100 millilitres, according to the guidelines. The research evaluated the current state of water quality in the country's rivers, noting that 323 of the 351 rivers were polluted.[21]

It stated that improved requirements to maintain the water value of streams, as well as improved requirements for Total Suspended Solids (TSS), nitrogen (ammonia and nitrates), phosphorus, and faecal coliform. The committee also concluded that, considering the lack of dilution and deterioration of our rivers and lakes, nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) controls in water bodies are required[22]. The NGT's direction came on a plea by Nitin Shankar Deshpande, who claimed that standards have been drastically diluted by the MoEF under the new notification which will lead to widespread degradation of water quality in rivers[23].

The case of Dhampur Sugar Mills Ltd. in Uttar Pradesh

The National Green Tribunal has fined four units of Dhampur Sugar Mills Ltd in Uttar Pradesh Rs 20 crore for violating environmental regulations on a regular basis. Perusal of the different inspection reports filed by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) plainly demonstrates that environmental harm was created for a long period, according to a bench chaired by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel.

FACTS: Four facilities of Dhampur Sugar Mills Ltd in Uttar Pradesh[24] have been fined Rs 20 crore by the National Green Tribunal for violating environmental rules on a regular basis. Perusal of the different inspection reports filed by the CPCB and the UPPCB plainly demonstrates that environmental harm was created for a long period, according to a bench chaired by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel.

ORDER OF NGT: The NGT ordered Dhampur Sugar Mills, District Sambhal; Dhampur Sugar Mills, District Bijnor; Dhampur Distillery Unit, District Bijnor; and Dhampur Sugar Mills, Meerganj, District Bareilly, to pay Rs 5 crore in environmental compensation starting September 1, 2021. The tribunal stated that one thing that has become evident is that all four units have been consistently breaching environmental rules and have demonstrated a callous attitude and lack of concern for the adverse effects of pollution on the environment. In reality, these units have denied other people and local residents of their right to live in a pollution-free environment, according to the bench.[25]

According to the NGT, there should be a suitable balance between environmental protection and development activities, which are necessary for advancement. There is no doubt that society must thrive, but this must not come at the expense of the environment. The environment must be safeguarded, but not at the expense of societal growth.

It stated that development and the environment must coexist and go hand in hand. The tribunal also established a committee comprised of members from the CPCB (to be nominated by the hairdresser), the UPPCB, and the concerned District Magistrates to conduct a full investigation into the amount of environmental damage.[26]

The committee will also meet with farmers and other residents who may have incurred losses or harm as a result of the units' pollution, according to the statement. In Adil Ansari v. Dhampur Sugar Mills Ltd., the NGT for non-compliance of the environmental norms held 'We further impose a litigation cost of Rs 10 lakh, which should be paid by respondents no 1 to 3 (Dhampur Sugar Mills Ltd) to CPCB within one month, and the said amount would be used for environmental conservation and preservation'[27].

The tribunal was considering a petition submitted by Adil Ansari demanding penalties against Dhampur Sugar Mills Ltd.'s units, as well as the imposition of adequate environmental compensation for non-compliance with environmental norms and legislation.[28]

Existing system has flaws and needs to be overhauled:
In India, the supervisory conformity of manufacturing facilities (emissions and sewage flow) is overseen by state-level State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) and the country's highest statutory authority for pollution control, the CPCB. The Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change of India established requirements for sewage flow from sugar businesses in 2016. It is important to note that in comparison to other countries, India's wastewater generation limit is significantly stricter, with only 200 litres of wastewater allowed per tonne of cane crushed.[29]

Furthermore, regulatory officials noted that with the implementation of appropriate technologies, the aim of 200 litre effluent output per tonne of cane crushed might be met in some enterprises. As a result, the effluent generation limit was set at 200 litres per tonne of crushed cane, with the assurance that enterprises would get adequate technical support and oversight to meet this goal[30].

However, it was consistently noted that, rather than obeying the established norms, the enterprises illegally discharged untreated wastewater into surrounding freshwater resources. The reasons for adopting this technique could be attributed to ignorance, a lack of concern for environmental quality, and the desire to maximise financial profits. In the long run, this technique has resulted in a significant reduction in the recipient's water quality.

It is feasible to investigate the impact of sugar mill sewage as a cause of contamination of groundwater and surface water in the area using chemical analysis of groundwater and surface water samples. In India, the sugar industry is primarily concentrated in rural areas. Sugar businesses that continue to operate short of taking up conservation precautions may cause major health concerns for the rural population living nearby.

Dissolved Oxygen, Biochemical oxygen demand, Nitrate, and colour have all surpassed the permissible limit, especially in the sugar effluent area. The majority of tests from the sugar industry area contained levels of nitrate that above the legal limit. It is obvious that sugar industry wastewater pollutes the groundwater in the surrounding area. As a result, it is unfit for human eating unless it has been treated first. To satisfy the required requirements defined by Indian norms, treatment of effluent discharge from sugar factories is required.

  1. ICRA Sector Analysis, The Indian Sugar Industry, July 2006
  2. Ibid.
  3. APHA.,(2012): Standard methods of water and wastewater analysis 22th Edition. American Public Health Association. Washington DC.
  4. Arora, T., Mishra, A., Matta, G., Chopra, A. K., Kumar, A., Khanna, D. R., & Kumar, V. (2014). Human health risk assessment of temporal and spatial variations of ground water quality at a densely industrialized commercial complex at Haridwar, India. Journal of Applied and Natural Science, 6(2), 825-843.
  5. Bandugula et al., (2014): Physico-Chemical analysis of sugar industry effluents of Gayathri Sugar factory Nizamabad District, Telangana State, India. World Journal of Pharmaceutical Research, 3(8):1244-1249.
  6. Buvaneswari, S. et al., (2013): Bioremediation studies on sugar mill effluent by selected fungal species. Int. J. Corr. Microbiol. Appl. Sci., 2(1): 50-58.
  7. Cox, H.M.S., (1969): An investigation of sugar mill effluents. PSASTA, 219-227
  8. Ibid.
  9. D. R. Khanna, F. Ishaq, G. Matta, A. Khan and K.C. Semwal. Comparison between organic and inorganic soil microbial diversity of different agronomic fields ESSENCE - International Journal for Environmental Rehabilitation & Conservation, I (2): 43-51, 2010.
  10. Gagan Matta (2015) Evaluation and prediction of deviation in physic-chemical characteristics of River Ganga. International Journal of Advancements in Research and Technology 4(6): 14 -30.
  11. ENVIS Centre, Pollution Control Board.
  12. Arora, T., Mishra, A., Matta, G., Chopra, A. K., Kumar, A., Khanna, D. R., & Kumar, V. (2014). Human health risk assessment of temporal and spatial variations of ground water quality at a densely industrialized commercial complex at Haridwar, India. Journal of Applied and Natural Science, 6(2), 825-843.
  13. Muhammad waseem, Weqar A.Siddiqui And. "A Comparative Study of Sugar Mill Treated and Untreated Effluent- A Case Study." Oriental Journal Of Chemistry (2012): 1899-1904.
  14. Monika Mandal. "Hidden water crisis behind India's sugar dominance." The Third Pole (2021)
  15. Krishan Kant Singh Anr vs National Ganga River Basin on 31 May, 2014.
  16. Gagan Matta (2015a): Effect of water quality on phytoplankton ecology of Upper Ganga Canal, International Journal of Scientific & Engineering Research, Volume 6, Issue 2, 762-768.
  17. G. Matta and A. Kumar (2015): Monitoring and Evaluation of River Ganga System in Himalayan Region with Reference to Limnological Aspects - World Applied Sciences Journal, 33 (2): 203- 212
  18. G. Matta and A. Kumar (2015): Monitoring and Evaluation of River Ganga System in Himalayan Region with Reference to Limnological Aspects - World Applied Sciences Journal, 33 (2): 203- 212
  19. Deshmukh, K.K., (2014): Environmental impact of sugar mill effluent on the quality of groundwater from Sangamner, Ahmednagar, Maharastra, India. Res. J. Research Sci., 3: 385- 392.
  20. Deepthi, T. and Prabhakharan, J., (2016): Physico-chemical analysis of sugar mill effluents and its effect on seed germination of paddy & green gram. IJSEAT, 4(1): 71-80.
  21. Ibid
  22. Nitin Shankar Deshpande Vs Union of India, 30th April 2019
  23. Ibid
  24. Daulta et al., (2014): Effect of sugar mill effluent on physico-chemical properties of soil at Panipat city, India. Int. Archive of Applied Sciences & Technology, 5(2):6-12
  25. Datta, P.S., Deb, D.L., and Tyagi, S.K., (1997): Assessment of groundwater contamination from the fertilizers in Delhi area based on O, NO3 and K+ composition, Journal of contaminant Hydrology, 27(3-4): 249.
  26. D.R. Khanna, Rana, R., Agarwal, S.K. and Matta, G.: "Water quality analysis of Paniyala State Fish Pond" Journal of Mountain Research: 4: 164-177, 2009.
  27. Adil Ansari vs. Dhampur Sugar Mills Ltd. and Ors., MANU/GT/0180/2020
  28. D.R. Khanna, R. Bhutiani, Gagan Matta, Vikas Singh ans Gaurav Bhadauriya (2012b): Study of planktonic diversity of river Ganga from Devprayag to Roorkee, Uttarakhand (India). Environment Conservation Journal. Vol 13(1&2):211-217
Written By: Umang Mohan

Law Article in India

Ask A Lawyers

You May Like

Legal Question & Answers

Lawyers in India - Search By City

Copyright Filing
Online Copyright Registration


How To File For Mutual Divorce In Delhi


How To File For Mutual Divorce In Delhi Mutual Consent Divorce is the Simplest Way to Obtain a D...

Increased Age For Girls Marriage


It is hoped that the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which intends to inc...

Facade of Social Media


One may very easily get absorbed in the lives of others as one scrolls through a Facebook news ...

Section 482 CrPc - Quashing Of FIR: Guid...


The Inherent power under Section 482 in The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (37th Chapter of t...

The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in India: A...


The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is a concept that proposes the unification of personal laws across...

Role Of Artificial Intelligence In Legal...


Artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing various sectors of the economy, and the legal i...

Lawyers Registration
Lawyers Membership - Get Clients Online

File caveat In Supreme Court Instantly