Ministry of Environment draws paper industry’s ire

A Twitter post by the Ministry of Environment has not gone down well in the paper manufacturing circles.

16 Apr 2021 | By Aultrin Vijay

A recent twitter post by the official handle of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has drawn criticisms from the print fraternity for linking deforestation with paper manufacturing.

The tweet stated: “The packaging industry requires more paper prompting the cutting of more #trees. Hence, recycling and proper utilisation of waste #paper are necessary on a large scale to avoid cutting trees. #Recycle & re-use paper scrap. #Gooddeeds (sic).”

The fact that the tweet called for saving trees and linked deforestation with the paper manufacturing irked some of the industry leaders. One of the first responses came from Rohit Pandit of Indian Paper Manufacturers Association.

Pandit wrote, “Wood used by paper mills in India is from agro/farm forestry. Paper industry is enhancing the country’s green cover, leading to carbon sequestration, and supplementing the income of farmers, who grow and harvest trees like any other crop.”

BR Rao, convener - industry affairs, Federation of Paper Traders' Associations of India (FPTA) concurred, “In India, more than 75% of paper is produced by using agro residues and waste paper. Even the wood is sourced from farmers and social forestry. Cutting of trees is banned in India. How come the paper industry can cut trees? Surely we have to encourage recycling of paper.”

An image posted along with the tweet read, “Every paper scrap is valuable, recycle, reuse to save trees! (sic).” Devesh K Singhal, director at Uttar Pradesh-based Chandpur Enterprises, a paper mill, slammed the tweet and elaborated on the green quotient of paper manufacturing.

Singhal wrote, “In India, nearly 80% paper is being made using recycled fibre. No forest trees are being cut to make paper. Trees used for making paper are farmer-grown trees, which is sustainable, and in fact, helps poor farmers in addition to maintaining green cover.”

He added that in India, per capita consumption of paper is less than one-fourth of the world. “We Indians, an 18% population of the world, use just 4% of the world's paper production, and a major part of the papermaking fibre requirement is for recycling,” he explained.

Singhal also claimed that the “paper industry does not fall under the top five causes for deforestation in India”.

Saurav Kumar Das, another member from the paper manufacturing industry, criticised the tweet and wrote, “Please don’t link use of paper to save trees or to avoid cutting trees. It is the opposite - Wood is Good, Grow More, Use More.”

Das also attached a circular released by Prakash Javadekar, minister of environment, forest and climate change, on 21 July 2020, which mentioned the importance of wood and wood-based products and how the wood-based industries are contributing to a sustainable environment. Ironically, Javadekar was also tagged in the MoEFCC post.

Also read: The life of paper - a ray of hope - The Noel D'Cunha Sunday Column