'Sugar mills don't need clearance to produce ethanol'

Union Minister Prakash Javadekar. PTI Photo

The Centre announced on Tuesday that an environmental clearance would not be required to produce additional ethanol from sugarcane juice as it does not cause pollution, a move that may benefit farmers and the cash-strapped sugar mills.

Sugar mills and farmers have been at loggerheads because of non-payment of dues to the latter. The mill owners have maintained that due to excess production of sugar and fall in the price, even they had not been getting their dues.

As of June 2019, the mills owed nearly Rs 20,000 crore to farmers across the country. With a smooth obstacle-free production of additional ethanol, the crisis may ease.

"In yet another major decision for the benefit of farmers and sugar industry, the central government has declared that no separate environment clearance is required to produce additional ethanol from 'B' heavy molasses as it does not add to the pollution load," Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar tweeted.

The environment ministry said with the incentives, sugar mills are expected to undertake the production of ethanol from B-heavy molasses and other by-produces or products.

Molasses, a thick fluid that is a by-product of sugar extraction from sugarcane, is used in alcohol manufacturing among other products.

"This shall result in an incidental increase in the production of ethanol without any increase in the total pollution load in the existing distilleries or sugar mills to which environmental clearances have already been granted," the ministry said in a statement.

"To obviate the need for undertaking fresh environment impact assessment (EIA) or public consultation in all such cases of increase in production capacity, the government has given a clarification relating to the issuance of environmental clearance in order to facilitate the sugar mills to undertake additional production of ethanol from B-heavy Molasses in place of using C-heavy Molasses without any increase in the total pollution load," it said.

According to the ministry, it has been clarified that all such proposals to undertake additional ethanol production from B-heavy molasses/sugarcane juice/sugar syrup/sugar may be considered under the provisions of the EIA notification, 2006, by the expert appraisal committee for granting environmental clearance.

The EIA notification of 2006 makes it mandatory to get a clearance for all new projects, their expansion, and modernisation as well as a change in product mix.

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