Dubai-based Averda is making an entry into India for managing municipal and farm waste in the northern city of Amritsar to offer a solution to the deadly smog caused by stubble burning.
The waste management solution provider is the latest among companies that are attempting to cut the practice of farm fires. The burning of crop residues is seen as a major contributor to the smog that shrouds most of north India during winter months, raising the risk of heart and lung diseases and harming the country's economy. Even though the government has made the practice illegal, it still continues.
"We will provide the farmers an alternative to burning crop stubble," Malek Sukkar, chief executive officer of the company, said in an interview. "From an environmental point of view, it makes no sense. This has energy that's not being recovered - it's not creating anything, just smoke and pollution."
The toxic air costs the country as much as 8.5% of its GDP, according to World Bank calculations, besides shortening the lives of citizens. The pollution intensifies during winters as smoke rising from farm fires drifts and then hangs in the air because of low temperatures, covering the country's land-locked capital and other adjoining areas in a thick blanket of smog.
Some companies, such as state-run Indian Oil Corp. and NTPC Ltd. and private firm Praj Industries Ltd., have been working on solutions to extract energy out of crop waste. But these efforts haven't managed to solve the pollution problem.
Averda's India plans are not confined to crop waste management. The company is setting its sight on India's swelling heaps of household waste. It will bring in processes for segregating the waste and recycling it to produce energy, Sukkar said.
It plans to be present in as many as 20 Indian cities and inject $50 million to $100 million every year in the India business over the next three to five years, he said.