UP sugar mills, distilleries to set up oxygen plants
On Sunday, Yogi had, during a virtual dialogue with the traders, asked industry to innovate in the field of oxygen production and oxygen concentrators, given the rising demand for medical oxygen in the state.
In the backdrop of rising demand for medical oxygen in hospitals, the private sugar mills and distilleries in Uttar Pradesh (UP) are looking at setting up oxygen plants in their premises.
UP is among the worst-affected states in terms of active cases and mortality in the current second wave of Covid-19 pandemic.
Chief minister Yogi Adityanath has also urged the sugar industry to rise up to the occasion at a time when the demand for liquid medical oxygen has outstripped supply owing to the sudden and robust spike in fresh Covid cases.
On condition of anonymity, a sugar industry official said oxygen requirement was critical at this juncture and the mills would contribute towards the cause. “The mills are actively exploring the option of setting up oxygen plants keeping in mind the demand matrix in their immediate vicinity.”
Oxygen plants and equipment are in short supply due to high global demand. Since these plants are mostly imported, it would take several weeks before such projects could take off and the plants reach the commissioning stage.
Meanwhile, UP Additional Chief Secretary, Sugarcane and Sugar, Sanjay Bhoosreddy, has been mandated by the state government to bring sugar industry on board to boost oxygen production and make the state self-reliant in manufacture of the commodity.
There are about 120 sugar mills in UP, of which the majority — 94, to be precise — are owned by the private sector, followed by 24 units operated by the state cooperative federation. The 2020-21 sugar crushing season is currently underway in UP, although at its fag-end.
Recently, sugar mills in Maharashtra had also decided to produce oxygen in the wake of the shortage of the commodity in hospitals. The decision followed an appeal by the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar urging mills to foray into the segment to overcome short supply.
On Sunday, Yogi had, during a virtual dialogue with the traders, asked industry to innovate in the field of oxygen production and oxygen concentrators given the rising demand for medical oxygen in the state.
Meanwhile, the UP Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) has also relaxed norms to expedite the setting up of oxygen plants in the state.
In a recent order, the UPPCB has allowed private companies to start production even if their application for permission is pending with the authorities. These procedures would be completed in the meantime so as not to delay the projects which are critical at the moment.
Besides, the UP government is planning to set up oxygen plants in 61 districts under the PM Cares Fund, covering major towns, viz. Lucknow, Varanasi, Kanpur, Gorakhpur, Agra, Gautam Buddha Nagar, Aligarh, Prayagraj, Meerut, Mathura, Ghaziabad, Jhansi, Moradabad etc.
According to UP additional chief secretary (information) Navneet Sehgal, the state has already identified the spots for these proposed oxygen plants. “We are also vetting private sector proposals of big oxygen plants. This would ensure the emergence of a robust supply chain soon in the state itself.”
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has also announced to set up 10 oxygen plants in UP.
(Virendra Singh Rawat is a Lucknow-based journalist who writes on contemporary issues of industry, economy, agriculture, infrastructure, budget etc.)