TDS problem no more intractable: CLRI director

CHENNAI, APRIL 24. The Central Leather Research Institute (CLRI) has assured the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) that the problem of reducing total dissolved solids (TDS) in treated effluents of tanneries to the prescribed maximum will be solved by 2006, its director, T. Ramasami, said here today.

``The TDS problem is no more intractable, thanks to the partnership and networking the CLRI has forged with a range of research institutions. Tannery modernisation in Tamil Nadu will take place in consonance with total environmental security,'' Dr. Ramasami said, addressing the inaugural function of the 56th Foundation Day of the institution.

(The Indian leather sector has been saying the TDS standard of a maximum of 2,100 parts per million insisted on by the PCB for effluents, obtains nowhere in the world, and that in all leather producing countries, including developed countries, the problem of TDS, mainly common salt, is tackled by letting the treated effluent into the municipal sewer or the sea.)

The CLRI Director said last year (2003-04) the institute collaborated with 17 research institutions, including the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, involving them in finding solutions to technological issues in the leather sector. It recently held discussions with the TICEL Biopark, Chennai, to address tasks relating to skin biology.

Referring to the approval of the Tenth Plan outlay for the leather sector, Dr. Ramasami said 2004-05 would be a ``demanding year.'' The CLRI and other stakeholders would have to implement the HRD (human resource development) mission approved for the sector, including global benchmarking.

S. Chandrasekaran, professor, Indian Institute of Science, complimented the CLRI on retaining work on basic research and focus on science even while implementing its mandate on technology or applied research. It was no more possible for nations to remain competitive in technology merely by ``reengineering or tinkering with'' what had been developed elsewhere. Technology would have to be rooted in advancements in science.

Rafeeque Ahmed, leather sector industrialist and president of the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO), said the Indian leather industry could not become competitive unless the large number of small tanners and shoemakers were ``empowered'' and assisted to develop business through outsourcing by large units. Five proposals from foreign companies were received for starting footwear components units in the country. Footwear exports, now totalling $800 million, could touch $2.4 billion in a decade if the sector was nurtured, he said, expressing concern over the stagnation in exports of the sector as a whole.

Twenty teams of inventors from the faculty and staff of the CLRI, who had developed new/improved processes in various areas and for whose innovations patent applications had been filed by the institute, were honoured with a certificate. Cash incentives totalling Rs. 8 lakhs were distributed to various divisions for their contribution to innovative work.

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