Indian urea fertiliser plants 'must improve their disaster management plans'

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India’s fertiliser manufacturing industry is performing well in reducing its energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, but its record on water use, water efficiency and plant health and safety is a cause for concern, a new report has warned.

The report was produced by the New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) public interest research and advocacy organisation as part of its Green Rating Project (GRP).

Indian urea fertiliser plants 'must improve their disaster management plans'
Photo: iStock

The GRP aims to provide an independent assessment and rating of the environmental performance of Indian companies in specific industries. The aim is to recognise good environmental performance among the companies analysed, motivate poor performing companies to improve, and encourage the adoption of sound environmental management principles throughout the entire industry.

The Grain by Grain report surveyed and examined 28 of the 32 urea (nitrogen) fertiliser manufacturing plants in India on more than 50 environmental parameters. The assessment covered all aspects of production by the plants; including the use of raw materials, pollution control, health and safety management systems, environmental management and corporate social responsibility.

Fifty seven per cent of the 28 urea fertiliser manufacturing plants voluntarily participated in the rating by disclosing information and by allowing the GRP to verify the information provided through site visits. The remaining plants were rated on the basis of information available in the public domain and stakeholder surveys.

The survey found that overall, India’s urea fertiliser manufacturing industry has “performed well” in reducing its energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions created during the fertiliser manufacturing process. In fact, the report found that some of the Indian urea plants match the global best levels in terms of their energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions per tonne of urea fertiliser produced.

However, the report found that the urea fertiliser industry has “slipped” on its environmental parameters for reducing water consumption during the production process and in preventing and minimising water pollution from manufacturing plants.

The CSE also found that, although the urea fertiliser industry was performing “reasonably well” in meeting health and safety standards, most of the plants need to “upgrade their on-site and off-site disaster management plans and communicate them to the concerned authorities and the local community”.

Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general of CSE and head of the Green Rating Project, told Safety Management there were several complaints from local communities about ammonia smells from urea plants during the GRP study. “We found that some residents were completely unaware of any emergency preparedness plan [for the local fertiliser plant],” he said. “The community should be made aware of the measures that should be taken during such incidents.”

Bhushan added that, because 95 per cent of India’s urea fertiliser plants are over 20 years’ old, the industry needs to “continuously invest” in maintaining, revamping and replacing the plants to prevent fires and toxic gas leaks that could endanger the health and safety of both plant workers and local residents.

The CSE report says that, because Indian urea fertiliser plants have been incentivised to improve their energy efficiency, they have “done really well in that area”.

It adds: “However, since there are no incentives offered for controlling water consumption and environmental pollution, companies shy away from investing in pollution control measures or in technologies to reduce water use.”

The CSE recommends that, to help reduce India’s greenhouse gas emissions, the fertiliser industry must move from using fossil fuels to renewable energy sources when manufacturing nitrogen fertilisers, such as urea.

However, the CSE says that to enable the urea manufacturing industry to make the shift to renewable energy sources, the government needs to loosen its control over the industry and introduce competition to the sector.

“The government needs to change its policy and introduce a measure of decontrol in the industry,” said Chandra Bhushan. “Decontrol will make the industry more competitive. Competitiveness and innovation will be vital for the growth of the industry in coming years.”

According to the GRP’s ranking, the top rated urea fertiliser plant for environmental performance is Grasim Industries Limited’s Indo Gulf Fertilisers unit at Jagdishpur, Uttar Pradesh.

The plant scored 61 per cent and CSE says this was due to its superior performance in energy use and GHG emissions; its good environment, health and safety (EHS) measures; social responsibility; and transparency in sharing information.

The second highest ranked plants, both with a score of 58 per cent, were the Hazira (Gujarat) plant of Krishak Bharati Cooperative Limited (KRIBHCO) and the Panambur (Karnataka) plant of Mangalore Chemicals & Fertilizers Limited.

In third place, with a score of 57 per cent, was the Babrala (Uttar Pradesh) plant of Yara Fertilisers India Pvt Limited.

The assessment of the environmental performance of the urea fertiliser industry is the seventh rating project of Indian industries undertaken by the CSE since 1997. The other sectors that have so far been assessed by the GRP are pulp and paper, automobile, chlor-alkali, cement, iron and steel and thermal power plants.

For more information and to purchase the full report see:


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