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JK Lakshmi Cement cuts carbon footprint with over 50% green energy consumption

Plants over 1 million trees and, uses waste-derived fuels, such as agri residues and industrial by-products, in its cement production process to combat desertification

Vinita Singhania,  Chairperson & Managing Director, JK Lakshmi Cement Ltd

Vinita Singhania, Chairperson & Managing Director, JK Lakshmi Cement Ltd

An arm of the 135-year old well-diversified JK Organisation, the Rs 6000 crore JK Lakshmi Cement, has modern and fully computerised, integrated cement plants at Jaykaypuram, in the Sirohi district of Rajasthan, at Dabok, in the Udaipur district of Rajasthan (a subsidiary of the company) and at Ahiwara, in the Durg district of Chhattisgarh. It also has four split location grinding units at - Kalol and Surat in Gujarat, Jhamri in the Jhajjar district of Haryana and Cuttack in Odisha with a combined capacity of 13.9 million MT per annum and with a formidable presence in Northern, Western and Eastern India's cement markets. The company’s relentless focus is not just on product quality, customer satisfaction and innovation, but it is always driven by the philosophy that let India grow with them. The company believes in sharing its success with society and helping in building a better life for everyone.

Speaking to Bizz Buzz exclusively, Vinita Singhania, Chairperson & Managing Director, JK Lakshmi Cement Ltd, delves at length on how as a responsible cement manufacturer, they are addressing environmental challenges of land restoration, desertification and drought resilience through a sustainable approach

The World Environment Day has just passed. This year, the theme was ‘Land Restoration, Desertification, and Drought Resilience’. What is your take on this in the context of India, in particular?

According to an UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) report, as of 2019, a total of 30.51 million hectares of India’s total reported land was degraded, which is equivalent to ten times the size of Belgium or 43 million football pitches. This year, World Environment Day highlights the theme of ‘Land Restoration, Desertification, and Drought Resilience’, which emphasizes the urgent need to address the pressing issue of land degradation and its far-reaching impacts.

It underscores the importance of reversing land degradation, and fighting desertification and drought that threaten biodiversity, food security and livelihoods, particularly in arid and semi-arid regions. This year’s theme is particularly significant for the cement industry due to its substantial environmental footprint. Through its high carbon emissions and extensive raw material extraction, the cement industry is a major contributor to land degradation, desertification, and climate change and at the moment, addressing these challenges is critical for sustainable development.

What role, cement industry, the industry you are into, can play in this?

The cement industry can transform degraded lands into productive ecosystems by rehabilitating quarries and other extraction sites. This not only helps in carbon sequestration, which is the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide, but also helps restore biodiversity and improves soil health. Implementing sustainable practices such as using alternative raw materials and adopting more efficient production processes can significantly reduce land degradation.

The cement industry also plays a very important role in enhancing drought resilience. Innovations in cement and concrete technology can lead to the development of more water-efficient construction practices, crucial in drought-prone areas. The industry can contribute to better water management and reduce the impacts of drought by investing in green infrastructure, such as permeable pavements and water-retaining structures.

How do you adopt sustainable practices to combat environmental challenges in cement industry, for instance?

As environmental responsibility is a top priority in the present times, it is through a comprehensive strategy that the cement industry plans to minimize their footprint. Being committed to reducing carbon emissions and promoting resource efficiency throughout operations are paramount. By adopting energy-efficient technologies, utilizing alternative fuels and raw materials and actively conserving natural resources like limestone, gypsum, water, and energy, the cement industry is continuously improving the environmental performance and adhering to the highest environmental standards.

Significant increase in the use of renewable energy sources like solar power and waste heat recovery in cement production processes also help. These initiatives help build a sustainable future for generations to come. A multi-pronged approach to reduce energy consumption and waste, which includes utilizing alternative fuels, implementing waste heat recovery systems, and investing in energy-efficient machinery, are in place to address environmental challenges. Also, reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and increase in renewable energy usage add to the sustainable approaches.

What role does waste heat recovery systems play in this scheme of things?

The utilization of Waste Heat Recovery Systems (WHRS) has significantly reduced environmental footprint and also serves as a benchmark for the entire cement industry's sustainability journey. WHRS captures waste heat, a by-product of the cement production process, and converts it into usable energy, effectively increasing the green energy consumption beyond 50 per cent.

Now talking about land restoration and combating desertification, what steps are you taking or would you recommend as sustainable initiatives?

Extensive afforestation drive, which has seen the plantation of over 1 million trees across its operational sites and surrounding communities, is one of the most important steps. These efforts not only help replenish the land but also contribute to carbon sequestration, improving the overall ecological balance. Additionally, the use of waste-derived fuels, such as agricultural residues and industrial by-products, in its cement production process helps land restoration.

This not only reduces the reliance on fossil fuels but also helps divert waste from landfills, thereby preventing further land degradation. Investment in the development of sustainable mining practices, including the implementation of advanced land reclamation techniques, is another way to fight land degradation. These efforts ensure that the land used for mining activities is restored to its natural state, minimizing the impact on the surrounding ecosystem.

How should cement industry address the challenge of drought resilience through sustainable initiatives?

Water scarcity and drought are pressing global concerns, and the cement industry has taken proactive steps to address these challenges. There has been implementation of comprehensive water management strategies across its operations, focusing on water conservation, recycling, and responsible water usage. One of the key initiatives is the installation of state-of-the-art water treatment and recycling plants at manufacturing facilities of cement companies.

These plants enable to recycle and reuse a significant portion of the water consumed in its operations, reducing the overall freshwater withdrawal and contributing to drought resilience. Investment in rainwater harvesting systems, which capture and store rainwater for various industrial and community uses, also help fight the challenge of drought resilience. This not only helps replenish groundwater levels but also reduces the strain on local water resources, particularly during periods of drought. Collaboration with local communities to promote sustainable water management practices, such as the construction of check dams and the restoration of traditional water bodies also helps prevent drought situations.

We often get to hear about what is called “green cement”. Could you throw some light on this?

One of the key initiatives is the development of "green cement", which utilizes alternative raw materials and innovative manufacturing processes to reduce the carbon footprint of cement production. This includes the use of supplementary cementitious materials, such as fly ash and slag, which not only improve the cement's performance but also contribute to a lower embodied carbon.

Investing in renewable energy sources, with a significant portion of its energy needs being met through solar and wind power, is another way to make the shift towards clean energy, which not only reduces the company's greenhouse gas emissions but also sets an example for the industry to follow.

So what is the ultimate goal of all such sustainable initiatives?

Sustainability is a collective responsibility. The idea is to create a long-lasting system that benefits the future generations and leaves an indelible mark in the present generation who change their thought-process and prioritize environmental responsibility. Using advanced and sustainable technologies to minimize environmental impact while enhancing production capacity is the ultimate goal for every industry.

Ritwik Mukherjee
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