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Prakruthi Monograph Series No.1/2009

Burning Issue A pilot study on the consumption of firewood in the garment clusters of Tirupur


Prakruthi Enabling Sustainability


Study on the consumption of firewood in the garment clusters of Tirupur

Burning Issue A pilot study on the consumption of firewood in the garment clusters of Tirupur


Burning Issue

Burning Issue A pilot study on the consumption of firewood in the garment clusters of Tirupur

Š 2009 Edition, first

A study undertaken by Prakruthi 43, II Cross, Ramaya Layout, St. Thomas Town Post Kammanahalli, Bangalore - 560 084 Karnataka, INDIA Tel: +91 80 25438935/36 URL:

Printed at National Printing Press, Bangalore 3

Study on the consumption of firewood in the garment clusters of Tirupur

Contents Foreword




Firewood as energy source


Impact of firewood usage


Legality of wood-cutting


Firewood consumption in Tirupur garment cluster


Field Observations


Findings, Recommendations and Conclusion





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Foreword One of the key issues identified in the book Knitted Together published by Solidaridad and Partners in Change in 2006 was the enormous consumption of wood in Tirupur. The wood is mainly used for the boilers in the dyeing processes. As Prakruthi is interested in initiating a project on reducing carbon emission and energy for sustainable development of the garment cluster of Tirupur, a collation of issues around wood consumption was proposed to be carried out by Prakruthi, with support from Solidaridad, in the form of a study report. The study sought to find out how much wood is being consumed in the Tirupur knitwear industry; what are the environmental, economical and social issues involved with cutting down trees; what are the stakeholders’ viewpoints and the convergences and divergences in these viewpoints, and what are the possible alternatives for environmentally sustainable garment manufacturing. Solidaridad was happy to be part of that exercise and supported a consultative process in which stakeholders such as farmers; wood-cutters; representatives from the dyeing units; representatives from the firewood sales points; representatives from the association of commission agents for firewood; representatives of trade unions (AITUC, INTUC, HMS, ATP) and of NGOs (SAVE, CARE and Karnam); research scholars, and writers took part. What is presented here is an edited version of the long study concluded by Dr. Parthiban and made into a power point presentation for the multistakeholder consultation. We hope that a public discussion would be generated by this study and that viable alternatives could be found to ensure a sustainable planet. Dr. Shatadru Chattopadhyay Director, South and South East Asia, Solidaridad 5

Study on the consumption of firewood in the garment clusters of Tirupur

Introduction When we decided to undertake such a study as part of our ongoing involvement in the Tirupur garment clusters, our major concern was the question of pollution and denuding of foliage. We were little prepared for the kind of resistance to the various stakeholders imparting reliable and quality information. As a result, it took us many a hand and much more time than anticipated. Extensive use of firewood in the garment cluster of Tirupur without any planned afforestation programmes in place is a cause for concern. In order to understand the impact of firewood usage, we undertook a study to identify the amount of firewood consumption in garment industries in Tirupur; to trace the sources of firewood used; to find the types of firewood used, and to explore the socio-political dynamics of firewood market. The methodolgy employed was a combination of interviews and field observation. It included field trips to the main sources of firewood, weighbridges at the entry points for lorries carrying firewood, and interviews with brokers and agents involved in firewood marketing in Tirupur and Kangayam, and some workers in timber industries. There was resistance on the part of the respondents while answering queries. This study is limited as it lacks verifiable figures on the actual use of firewood and its sources on account of the absence of records of any kind that pertained to the quantities of firewood used in the Tirupur garment cluster and where they were sourced from. Many of the respondents were unwilling to be quoted. All the firewood that comes into Tirupur has to pass through weighbridges. There are six entry points through which the lorries come into Tirupur. There is a ring road for the lorries to branch out to factories. Therefore, it made the task of collecting data on consumption of firewood 6

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difficult. Attempts to get records from the weighbridges were not successful as their owners declined to share them. Efforts to source information from the Pollution Control Board (PCB) were also not fruitful as their focus is more on controlling water pollution and less on pollution from firewood. Spokespersons from the PCB were not willing to share any records or be quoted and, in fact, admitted that they had made no efforts to find out where the firewood was coming from as it was not part of their focus. The interviews however yielded more or less uniform responses pertaining to the quantity of firewood consumed annually. There were, however, conflicting responses to questions on where the firewood was being sourced from. A very small number of the people interviewed said large trees were being cut, while the rest reiterated that only shrubs growing on marginal lands and dry tank beds were being cut. The stakeholders know that they have to go in for massive plantation of trees like velam, karuvelam, and veli. They are also aware of the problems that are inherent in the use of firewood and there is agreement on the need to find alternatives. There was also willingness on the part of the people to explore and find ways to minimize the quantities of firewood used, if alternatives could not be found. The study is being published as a booklet in order to generate a public debate on the issue so that a planned afforestation programme that would benefit both the environment and the garment clusters could be implemented. Pramod John Executive Director


Study on the consumption of firewood in the garment clusters of Tirupur

Firewood as energy source Unlike most energy sources, wood is a renewable fuel source. New trees are continually growing. For many people, wood has the advantage of being readily available, can be easily cut and is relatively inexpensive. Growing awareness of wood fuels as a potentially environment-friendly source of energy is currently leading to renewed interest in wood energy and increasing number of initiatives and projects. In general, the direct cost of energy from wood is greater and, in some cases, substantially greater than the direct cost of energy from conventional fossil-fuel-based systems. Based on projected international trends of the pre-tax cost of oil and other fossil fuels, it appears probable that this will remain the case for some time unless an unexpected breakthrough can produce an immediate and substantial reduction in the cost of bio-fuels. A piece of hardwood emits more energy than a piece of softwood because it is denser. However, the volatile oils in some softwood can increase the heat output. Environmental benefits

Dry wood is a relatively environmentally clean fuel. It is low in sulphur emissions and leaves little ash residue when burnt in conventional wood heaters that comply with certain international standards such as the Australian Standard (AS 4013). Plantation firewood is a potential renewable energy source as it can be readily re-grown, especially with those species that will coppice from cut stumps. It can also be argued that burning plantation firewood is carbonneutral provided the trees are re-grown, as carbon released into the atmosphere during the combustion process is counteracted by the equivalent amount of CO2 (carbon dioxide) being absorbed by the next crop of trees. 8

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The use of native species can also provide environmental benefits such as an increase in biodiversity, improvement in remnant bush land areas and habitat for native fauna. Firewood plantations can be used to help alleviate land management problems such as erosion, salinity and rising water tables and nutrient runoff into streams. Indutrial sectors ussing firewood In India

The major industrial sectors that use firewood are tea, timber, tobacco, several small-scale units. Major factories of tea plantations and bought leaf factories (BLF) rely on firewood for converting the green leaf tea into made black verson. Coonoor region of Tamil Nadu is the major tea-growing belt in South India. The total energy requirement to produce one kilogram of made black tea is between 1.4 and 2.0 kilograms of dry firewood. Tea production during the year 2007, according to the Tea Board of India, Tamil Nadu has been estimated at 97.7 million kilograms and, therefore, the consumption of fire wood would be in the region of 1.7 lakh tonnes a year. Likewise, the timber industry is also a high consumer of firewood. In a World Wide Fund for Nature study conducted in 1996, it held the international timber trade as “the primary cause of forest degradation.” Timber is used to make furniture, plywood, in the shipping industry and in the construction industry. India imports timber from South East Asian and African countries. As against an annual requirement of 64 million cubic metres (excluding fuel wood), the domestic supply of wood is only 43 million cubic metres from all sources, making the import of wood and wood products the main source of supply. Therefore, most of the wood used in the timber industry does not come from within the country. India is the world’s third largest producer of tobacco, making it an extremely important commercial crop that provides livelihood to 27 million people engaged in tobacco farming. Firewood is needed to cure tobacco leaves, so wood used for tobacco curing is a major cause of environmental damage. Brazil, India, the Philippines and most of Africa (except Zimbabwe) use wood in tobacco industries. Charcoal is required for many heavy and medium industries. The iron and steel industries alone need about 258 million cubic meters of charcoal while the production was about 260 million cubic meters nearly a decade ago, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (USA). The consumption of charcoal in India has increased over the years along 9

Study on the consumption of firewood in the garment clusters of Tirupur

along with increased production. Approximately 7 to 10 kilograms of wood is used to make 1 kilogram of charcoal. Among the Asian countries, India is among the top three consumers of charcoal. Firewood from species such as Prosopis Juliflora (a native thorny arid plant species) and bamboo is burnt down and smoked in order to produce charcoal. This industry is centred in Ramnad district of Tamil Nadu and places surrounding it. Charcoal is transported mainly to Maharastra, Kolkata and Indore. According to Dr. Sai Bhaskar Reddy, in India: Making Charcoal from Prosopis Juliflora written for Terra Preta (Intentional use of charcoal in soil), because of climate change the quantum of annual rainfall has come down from over 800 mm to less than 600 mm in the last 50 years. As a result, cultivation of paddy has come down and people have become more and more dependant on the meager groundwater resources. The present scenario is that most of the paddy fields are left fallow and the soil has turned saline/alkaline. In this soil, Prosopis Juliflora grows abundantly. The plywood industry was started more than 75 years ago on a very modest scale. The Indian plywood industry sources state that in 2001 the production of plywood was 14.61 metric tonnes until 2008. This is a drastic reduction from the quantity produced in the previous decade. (source: http:// About 80 per cent of matchwood in the country is supplied by Kerala and 17 per cent by Tamil Nadu, which account for 95 per cent of the match-box production (of around two billion match boxes per month). Mr V.V. Rajan of Vasan Match Works, Gudiyatam, who is also the Secretary of the North Arcot District Small Scale Match Manufacturers Association, says there has been a steady depletion of match wood resources and the problem can be resolved only by raising new matchwood plantations in Tamil Nadu. A recent study paper by the Forest College and Research Institute, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Mettupalayam, Coimbatore, on the economics of growing “yellow matti� trees in the region, has pointed out that if the full demand of the match-box sector has to be met, at least 6,000 hectares of plantations every year should be cultivated in Tamil Nadu. It is estimated that for producing one bundle of match boxes (600 boxes), two kilograms of wood is needed, and for making 2 to 2.5 lakh match bundles, nearly 4,000 tonnes of wood per month is required. The current supply of matchwood from Tamil Nadu ranges between 100 and 250 tonnes per month and to fully feed the Tamil Nadu match10

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box industry for producing one crore bundles per month, the requirement of matchwood is said to be around 10,000 to 12,000 tonnes per month The paper production sector is one of the biggest consumers of wood. It takes about 2.7 kilograms of wood, 130 grams of calcium carbonate, 85 grams sulphur, 40 grams chorine and 300 litres of water to produce one kilogram of paper. According to the 8th International Trade Fair & Conference on Pulp, Paper & Conversion Industries 2007 conducted by the paper industry in India, in 2005–06, 7.2 million tonnes of paper was produced and it will increase over the coming years. Mostly bamboo trees are used in making paper and the cropping time of a bamboo tree is about three years. The wood that is used as packing material is taken from waste wood and soft wood and the pulp obtained is compressed and made into planks. Solid Wood Packaging Materials (SWPM) is defined as “wood packing materials other than loose wood packing materials, used or for use with cargo to prevent damage, including but not limited to dunnage, crating, pallets, packing blocks, drums, cases and skids.” However, wood packing materials made of wood-based products such as plywood, particle board, oriented strand board or veneer that have been created using glue, heat and pressure of a combination thereof are considered sufficiently processed to have eliminated the risk associated with raw wood (source: According to garment industry sources, unlike other small scale industries, over 100 tonnes of firewood are required for the 120 steam calendaring units while it is 300 tonnes for the 250 compacting units every day. Based on the capacity of the dyeing factory, between two and six tonnes of firewood are required everyday for each factory. Put together, over 2,000 tonnes of firewood are required. However, the calendaring method is not in vogue at present and compacting is used often for garments. The major source of firewood for Tirupur comes from Ramnad and its surrounding districts. And since the wood from the species ‘velam’ and ‘karuvelam’, has a high calorific value when used as firewood, the garment industry of Tirupur prefers to use the wood derived from these trees as their fuel. In Ramnad district, the palm trees that have completed their lifecycle are cut and used in the brick kilns to fire bricks. The wood of the palm and coconut trees do not have high calorific value. It does not burn but smokes for days together which is ideal for brick making. Therefore, brick kilns generally use coconut and palm tree trunks as their fuel. 11

Study on the consumption of firewood in the garment clusters of Tirupur

Impact of firewood usage Wood ashes

Dan Sullivan, soil scientist with the Oregon State University Extension Service, describes the importance of wood ashes for the rejuvenation of soil: Wood ash has long been recognized as a valuable substance. Many centuries ago, ancient Roman scientists and scholars documented the value of returning ash to the land. Wood ash increases the pH of the soil and thus increases the yield of acid sensitive crops. Wood ash is found useful in home gardens, in compost pile or as a pest repellent. In the 18th century, the benefits of ash-derived potash, or potassium carbonate, became widely recognized. North American trees were felled, burned and the ash was exported to Great Britain as ‘potash fever’ hit. In 1790, the newly-independent United States of America’s first patented process was a method for making fertilizer from wood ash (U.S. patent number 1: “An improved method of making pot and pearl ash). For the home gardener, however, wood ash can be a valuable source of lime, potassium and trace elements. Sullivan further states: Since wood ash is derived from plant material, it contains most of the 13 essential nutrients the soil must supply for plant growth. When wood burns, nitrogen and sulfur are lost as gases, and calcium, potassium, magnesium and trace element compounds remain. The carbonates and oxides remaining after wood burning are valuable liming agents, raising pH, thereby helping to neutralize acid soils. Where soils are acidic and low in potassium, wood ash is beneficial to most garden plants except acid-loving plants such as blueberries, rhododendrons and azaleas. The fertilizer value of wood ash depends 12

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on the type of wood burnt. As a general rule, hardwoods such as oak weigh more per cord and yield more ash per pound of wood burned. Hardwood ash contains a higher percentage of nutrients than ash from softwoods such as Douglas-fir or pine. Hardwoods produce approximately three times as much ash per cord and five times as many nutrients per cord as softwoods. Both types of ash contain enough calcium and magnesium to reduce soil acidity (increased soil pH) slightly. Nearly half a kilogram of wood ash per year is recommended for each shrub and rose bush. Lawns needing some lime and potassium can also benefit from wood ash. In compost piles, wood ash can be used to help maintain a neutral condition, the best environment to help micro-organisms break down organic materials. If used judiciously, wood ash can be used to repel insects, slugs and snails, because it draws water from the bodies of invertebrates (source: High levels of ashes will be detrimental for the plants as the wood ash is more alkaline in nature. And the alkaline soils generally will not benefit from ash application. Alkaline soils are not suitable for agricultural production. Due to low infiltration capacity, rain water stagnates on the soil easily and, in dry periods, irrigation is hardly possible. Agriculture is limited to crops tolerant to surface water logging (e.g.: rice, grasses). Continual use of ash in this way may increase the soil pH too much or accumulate high salt levels harmful to plants. However, when wood ash is used cautiously it can yield a number of benefits for the farmers (source: The used wood ash from the Tirupur industries can also be exported after proper processing as manure or fertiliser for gardens as well as for agriculture to yield economic benefits. Firewood and deforestation

The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992 defined deforestation as “land degradation in arid, semi-arid, and sub-humid areas resulting from various factors including climatic variations and human activities.� The effects of deforestation can be categorised in three ways, namely, environmental effects, local social effects, and global social effects. Many of the environmental effects contribute to the severity of the social problems. It therefore becomes imperative to understand the environmental effects of deforestation and how they contribute to the social effects of deforestation. 13

Study on the consumption of firewood in the garment clusters of Tirupur

Environmental effects

Deforestation leads to the following environmental effects: Desiccation of previously moist forest soil. Dramatic increase in temperature. Desertification of moist humid regions. No recycling of water. Less carbon dioxide and nitrogen exchange. Soil erosion. Global warming. Flooding and drought

Wood from trees is mainly used to make furniture, paper, match boxes and packing materials apart from being used as firewood in garment, tea and brick-making industries. However, a bulletin issued by the Reserve Bank of India in May 2006 states that there is a negative growth of 5.6 in wood and wood products, furniture and fixtures. This data shows that deforestation is being brought under control and, therefore, the consumption of wood and wood products has reduced (Manorama Year Book, 2007, p. 524). Some researches show that, in India, deforestation has taken place in the southern part of the Western Ghats which falls within Coimbatore district.1 However, the position of deforestation globally shows that it is the highest in Africa rather than in Asia and South America. Therefore, it can be concluded that major alarming deforestation has not occurred in Asian countries including India (source: unupress/ unupbooks/uu17ee/uu17ee06.htm). In recent years, although there has been an increase in deforestation rates (see graph below) in almost all

Graph 1: deforestation rates Source: http:// mediafiles/folkecenter/ technologies/


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tropical countries, India is not threatened by deforestation because the consumption of wood is balanced by afforestration/ preservation of forests and trees. Effects of smoke

The ecological impact of large-scale firewood collection and consumption raises a number of environmental questions. Burning solid fuel yields particulate pollution – solid particles smaller than a red blood cells which have been implicated in 30,000 deaths in the US and 2.1 million deaths worldwide per year. “Particulate pollution is the most important contaminant in our air ... we know that when particle levels go up, people die.”2 Indeed, wood smoke is chemically active in the body 40 times longer than tobacco.3 In the information notes for farming forestry (February 2004 – Department of Primary Industries), the authors say that it can also be argued that burning plantation firewood is carbon neutral, provided the trees are re-grown as carbon released into the atmosphere during the combustion process is counteracted by an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide being absorbed by the next crop of trees and more growing trees. Burning of firewood has both advantages as well as disadvantages. The disadvantages of burning firewood like emission of smoke, deforestation and wood ashes look as though it is such a detrimental factor for the environment and mankind. However, if the issue is looked into deep enough it will end up presenting a host of benefits and preventable measures for the detrimental effects. Notes C.S. Jha, C.B.S. Dutt, and K.S. Bawa, Deforestation and Land Use Changes in Western Ghats, India, Current Science, Vol. 79 (Jul 2000), No. 2, p. 231 2 Joel Schwartz, Ph.D., Harvard School of Public Health, E Magazine, Sept./Oct. 2002 3 Wm. A Pryor, Persistent Free Radicals in Woodsmoke: An ESR Spin Trapping Study, Free Radical Biology and Medicine 1989, 7(1): pp. 17-21. 1


Study on the consumption of firewood in the garment clusters of Tirupur

Legality of wood-cutting The Indian Forest Act, 1927 was largely based on previous Indian Forest Acts implemented under the British. The first and most famous was the Indian Forest Act of 1878. Both the 1878 Act and the 1927 Act sought to consolidate and reserve the areas having forest cover, or significant wildlife, to regulate movement of forest produce, and duty leviable on timber and other forest produce. It also defines the procedure to be followed for declaring an area to be a Reserved Forest, a Protected Forest or a Village Forest. It defines what a forest offence is, what are the acts prohibited inside a Reserved Forest and penalties leviable on violation of the provisions of the Act. The trees used in the garment industries are cut with the permission of the Government as required under law as also the use of trees felled while widening roads. Since it is the velam, karuvelam and veli trees which are used mostly in garment industries, farmers cultivate these trees in their own agricultural lands which suffer for want of water. Although there are some incidences of illegal cutting of trees for firewood, it is minimal. There is no published evidence that Tirupur garment industry uses wood procured illegally as firewood. In 1995, T N Godavarman Thirumulpad filed a writ petition with the Supreme Court of India to protect a part of the Nilgiris forest from deforestation by illegal timber felling (W P [Civil] No 202 of 1995, T N Godavarman Thirumulpad vs Union of India, Supreme Court of India; Down to Earth, ‘Interview between T N Godavarman Thirumulpad and Surendranath C’, August 31, 2002). The Supreme Court clubbed the Godavarman case with another writ petition relating to similar issues (W P [Civil] No 171 of 1996, Environment Awareness Forum vs State of Jammu and Kashmir) and expanded its scope from ceasing illegal operations in particular forests into a reformation of the entire country’s 16

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forest governance and management. In its first major order in the Godavarman case on 12 December 1996, the Court inter alia redefined the scope of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, suspended tree-felling across the entire country, and sought to radically reorient the licensing and functioning of forest-based industries. Hence, India imports most of its timber from South East Asian and African countries.


Study on the consumption of firewood in the garment clusters of Tirupur

Firewood consumption in Tirupur garment cluster Tirupur and the garment industry

Tirupur is now a district in Tamil Nadu in southern India. An important trade centre of India, Tirupur is known by many names: dollar city, hosiery city and banian city are some of them. The names that Tirupur has earned is owed to the fact that it has gained international recognition as the leading source for hosiery, knitted garments, casual and sports wear. Some of the world’s largest brands source their products from Tirupur and the city provides employment to over 300,000 people. The annual export turnover of Tirupur is over Rs 12,000 crore. The origin of the hosiery industry in Tirupur dates back to the 1930s when it began as a cottage industry, supplying knitwear to domestic and local markets. This included the production of low value cotton hosiery, mainly undergarments. The knitting industry of Tirupur began when Mr Gulam Kadar established the first baby knitting industry in the Kaderpet area of Tirupur. This was followed by the establishment of a second knitting unit by Ms. Chellammal, who set up the Chellammal Knitting industry. 1 Tirupur, in many ways, was a place that was ideally suited to the setting up of weaving and knitting industries. Mr Samiappan, a pioneer in garment business, says, “Agriculture activities in this region diminished over a period of time, when crops failed regularly owing to lack of irrigation and other factors. The result was that people were left without work. In their quest for employment, garment manufacture emerged as a sustainable option as the dry climate of this region was conducive for the growth of this industry.” He continues, “Textiles are not new to this region. Even 18

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before the knitting industry picked up, the locals were weaving textiles by hand. Graduating to the knitted process was logical.� The textile industry is one of the main pillars of the Indian economy. It constitutes about 14 per cent of industrial production, 20 per cent of total export earnings, 4 percent of GDP and direct employment to an estimated 35 million people. By 1960, there were about 450 knitting units that serviced domestic demand. The shift from supplying local markets to export began three decades ago as a response to the shrinking domestic markets owing to fierce competition among the local manufacturers. Manufacturers in Tirupur who are known for their entrepreneurial spirit then began to look outwards for bigger markets and the first export from Tirupur was made to the US and Ghana by Mohan Knits through a Mumbai merchant exporter in 1972.2 This could not, however, be sustained and the export business in Tirupur picked up momentum only in the early 1980s. By 1987, the export revenue of Tirupur had reached around Rs. 75 crore. Since then, exports from Tirupur have been growing steadily and during the year 2004, the total exports touched a figure of more than Rs. 5,000 crore. Tirupur presently contributes 75 per cent of the total production of cotton knitwear, which is exported from India.3 Table 1: Growth in knitwear exports from Tirupur


Qty x 000

Value in US$

Value in crore Rs


2,574 (47.87%)

5,443 (38.29%)

1,892 (38.16%)


2,943 (46.54%)

6,042 (37.77%)

2,214 (37.81%)


3,385 (49.63%)

6,168 (37.91%)

2,540 (37.79%)


3,680 (48.52%)

6,897 (36.58%)

2,968 (36.55%)


4,104 (49.58%)

7,616 (37.28%)

3,423 (37.29%)


3,724 (51.87%)

7,186 (40.30%)

3,389 (40.30%)


3,448 (52.83%)

6,667 (41.78%)

3,239 (41.78%)


3,704 (54.57%)

7,935 (43.62%)

3,700 (43.61%)

(Figures within brackets show % of Tirupur share to all India Exports) Source: Case study of Tirupur,

In terms of the total domestic production of cotton knitted garments of India, Tirupur accounts for about 35 per cent, Delhi for 10 per cent, 19

Study on the consumption of firewood in the garment clusters of Tirupur

Calcutta for 30 per cent and the rest is contributed by secondary centres throughout the country.4 Apart from direct export from Tirupur, many garment manufacturers also supply their products to merchant exporters in other places like Bombay, Delhi, Bangalore and Madras from where exports take place. Region dependent on garment manufacture

Tirupur and the areas around it are either directly involved with the textile industry or support it in one way or the other. The neighbouring city of Coimbatore is renowned for the manufacture of machine tools, pumps and yarn, which directly feed the textile industry. Nearby districts like Karur and Erode have earned a reputation for manufacturing high quality bed linen, furnishings, etc. Karur also has processing units for natural dyeing. “In view of increasing problems with infrastructure and labour problems, the garment industry of Tirupur is expanding into the neighbouring areas such as Somanur, Avinashi, Palladam and Koduvai, and further into Udumalpet and Pollachi districts,” says, Mr Prem Durai, Managing Director, Prem Group Companies. In view of the importance of infrastructure and institutional support to sustain the garment industry of Tirupur and its continued growth, support mechanisms from government and financial institutions, as well as social support required for the well-being of the labour force employed are in place. Some of the infrastructural and other needs that have been recognized and met are: Š Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC) has a full fledged office

in Tirupur. Š Several leading public and private sector banks have established

branches in Tirupur. Financial institutions such as Small Industries Development Banking Institution (SIDBI) have set up base in Tirupur to facilitate industrial financial support. Š Five primary health centres (PHCs), 12 colleges and 24 schools

provide education and build human resource skills. Š National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) has established a

branch in Tirupur to provide training for fashion design skills. Š A water project with an investment of Rs.1000 crore to address

domestic and industrial requirements is being implemented through New Tirupur Development Authority. Š In a bid to explore alternate energy options, a wind mill project to

generate four megawatts of power has been initiated by the Tirupur 20

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Export Knitwear Industrial Complex with an investment of Rs 24 crore. Š There are eight common effluent treatment plants, out of which

five are through the NTDC. The five units have reverse osmosis systems for complete treatment of industrial effluents.5 How the garment cluster operates

Tirupur has very few backward integrated production houses. The manufacture of garments is broken into stages and each stage is a specialized one. Most industries outsource several processes to specialized units. The garment cluster in Tirupur consists of around 5,000 units which are connected in one way or the other to the activities of the textile value chain. This helps them keep the competitive edge over pricing, a vital factor while servicing international markets. Table 2: Spread of units in the textile value chain in Tirupur cluster

Value Chain


Number of units


Knitting/Stitching units



Dyeing and Bleaching



Fabric Printing






Other Ancillary Units



Compacting and Calendaring


Source: Background Study of Tirupur, Fair Wear Foundation, 2004

Processes within the value chain – how they work

Garment production can be split up into the following steps: Š Cotton cultivation – from seed to plant to flower, and then cotton (and seed). Š Ginning and spinning cotton – yarn manufacturing. This is the process of covering cotton into thread, or yarn. Š Knitting process – machines convert the thread into fabric rolls. Š Dyeing and bleaching process – clothes are bleached first as white garments and then coloured using dyeing process. 21

Study on the consumption of firewood in the garment clusters of Tirupur

Š Compacting and calendaring process – clothes are dyed and straightened. Š Cutting the cloth – by hand or machine, according to designs. Š Stitching – clothes are stitched as garments, using machines. Š Fabric printing – if required, logos and slogans are printed by screen printing or other printing processes. Š Embroidery – designs are made if required. Š Labeling – labels of each brand are stitched on to clothes. Š Checking – garments are checked for flaws, like small holes, imperfect colour, stitching errors, etc. Š Ironing – garments are ironed for neatness. Š Packing and shipment – garments are packed individually in polythene covers and thereafter put in cartonnes and readied for shipment. They are transported to ports, loaded in containers and shipped to buyer/consumer destinations. Tirupur – on the verge of an energy crisis?

Tirupur has come a long way from the days it was known for the manufacture of knitted garments for the low-end domestic market. The range in Tirupur today can boast of high end T-shirts, women’s and children’s wear, catering to some of the biggest names world-wide. This rapid growth has, however, brought with it some major challenges. Chief among them are with regard to environment pollution, energy consumption and the challenge of constantly looking for alternative sources of energy to address these problems. This study, by design, deals only with the challenges posed by the use of firewood, which is used in large quantities for bleaching, dyeing and steam calendaring. Steam boilers – how they work

Processing of fabric or yarn is a multi-stage process and involves heat and power consumption in most of these processes. Main operation processes such as scouring, dyeing, sizing, mercerizing, steam calendaring, washing and drying need either steam or hot water. The industry uses devices known as boilers for generating steam. A boiler consists of two principal parts: the furnace, which provides heat, usually by burning a fuel, and the boiler proper, a device in which the heat changes water into steam. In any textile industry, the boiler house is normally situated in a central place and the steam generated from the boiler is transported to the units where it is used through pipes. 22

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The amount of steam that can be generated per hour depends upon the rate of combustion of the fuel in the furnace and upon the efficiency of heat transfer to the boiler proper. Since the rate of combustion of the fuel in a furnace is largely dependent upon the quantity of air available, sufficient supply of air is an important consideration in boiler construction. Two types of boilers are most common — fire-tube boilers, containing long steel tubes through which the hot gases from the furnace pass and around which the water to be changed to steam circulates, and water-tube boilers in which the conditions are reversed. Water is changed to steam in these continuous circuits and is super-heated in transit. This additional heating of the steam increases the efficiency of the power-generating cycle. A safety valve is used to prevent explosions by releasing steam if the pressure becomes too great. Boilers consume the major chunk of fuel in any processing industry. Efficiency of a boiler depends upon minimization of various indirect losses of the boiler so that amount of energy input in the boiler by burning the fuel can be maximally utilized for generation of steam and cost of steam can be minimized.6 The textile industry accounts for about 9 per cent of the total commercial energy use in India. Firewood, coal, furnace oil and electricity meet the process requirements in textile industry. The expenditure on energy in most of the textile mills is about 10–15 per cent of the total input costs. With regard to Tirupur, the primary sources of energy are electrical, firewood, furnace oil and high-speed diesel. And, the secondary sources are steam and thermic fluid. Firewood and furnace oil are used in boilers to produce steam. There are about 1100 boilers in Tirupur including standby ones, 95 per cent of which use firewood. The estimated annual firewood consumption is about 525.085 million kg (2002). Furnace oil is used as fuel in boilers as well as in furnaces to heat the thermic fluid, which is used in the dryers and printing units. The yearly furnace oil consumption of Tirupur is about 30.72 million litres. High-speed diesel oil is used to run generators in case of grid power failure and the annual consumption is about 0.596 million litres. The electrical energy and steam consumption of Tirupur dyeing sector is about 20.93 million kWh per year and 2.085 billion kg per year respectively. There are there types of firewood used mainly – velam (azharditica indica), karuvelam and souk (eucalyptus). These woods have more market 23

Study on the consumption of firewood in the garment clusters of Tirupur

value because of its capacity to produce more heat; therefore, more steam and less ash. They are also easily available in the locality. The market value of these woods varies from Rs. 2200 to 2600. If it is a mixed one, it will cost Rs. 2100 to 2300 because the size of the wood is dissimilar and varies in producing heat. Analyzing the growth of the plants it has been found that velam and karuvelam may take six years to grow to be used as firewood. Veli (thorny bush wood) takes only one year for firewood collection. Share of energy consumption

The knitting and stitching units consume about 32.63 million kWh of electrical energy per year and the printing and other units consume about 35 million kWh and 0.293 billion kg of electrical energy and steam per year respectively. The dyeing units consume about 20.93 million kWh electrical energy per year and consume 2.09 billion kg of steam per year. The total electrical energy consumption of Tirupur garment sector is about 166.775 million kWh per year. The bleaching and dyeing processes are heavily dependant on steam energy, provided by the boilers which use firewood as fuel. The resources flow analysis for Tirupur town conducted by Lowe (2001) for Asian Development Bank in 2001 shows that the firewood consumption in Tirupur town is 437,760 tonnes per year. Present indicators point out that firewood consumption in Tirupur region is above 7,00,000 tones per year. Where does this firewood come from? Mr. Mathi, Secretary of the Firewood Commission Agents Association says, “Almost all the firewood coming to Tirupur is sourced from dried-up tank beds and marginal lands in nearby villages. We also get Government contracts to chop trees when highways are being widened or other civil works are undertaken. There is no deforestation.� His view was endorsed by all the respondents who were approached. Notwithstanding this, it is probably in place to give thought to situations when these sources are not feasible, or when the required quantities are not available. In view of the dependence of the industry on firewood, there is a strong likelihood of forests getting denuded. Efforts to get this information, for obvious reasons were not fruitful. While there have been several efforts to address the discharge of effluents and the pollution of ground water, as well as the River Noyyal, equal attention has not been paid to the issues arising out of the use of 24

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Diagram 1: Resource flow analysis of Tirupur Town* (Units: Water – 1000 litres per day; Electrical Energy – 1000 kWh per year; others – tonnes per year)





Bleaching/ Dyeing







Finished Product


EE - Electrical Energy ST - Steam WA - Water EFF - Effluent

Garment Manufacturing

Finished Product

*Lowe, E.A. (2001), Eco-Industrial Park Handbook for Asian Developing Countries, Report to Asian Development Bank. 25

Study on the consumption of firewood in the garment clusters of Tirupur

Graph 2: Electrical energy consumption in Tirupur*

*Estimated values

Graph 3: Steam consumption pattern in Tirupur*

*Estimated values

firewood, despite the existence of some studies which point very strongly to the need for action on this front. More importantly, there have been very few efforts to find sustainable ways to supply the demand for firewood, as well as address the problems of GHG emissions from firewood usage. There is evidence to point to GHG emissions. Mr Velavan, in his paper, says: 26

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The major sources of GHG emissions are the direct emission from firewood and furnace oil consumption and indirect contribution through electrical energy consumption. Table 3: Estimated values of GHG emissions from Tirupur textile sector



GHG emission



0.722 million tonnes of CO2 per year


Electrical energy

0.047 million tonnes of CO2 per year


Furnace oil

0.091 million tonnes of CO2 per year

Source: Extract from research paper by Mr R Velavan, Research Associate, School of Energy, PSG College of Technology, Coimbatore.

These patterns amply demonstrate that the bleaching and dyeing processes are heavily dependant on steam energy, provided by the boilers which use firewood as fuel. The resources flow analysis for Tirupur town conducted by Lowe (2001) for Asian Development Bank in 2001 shows that the firewood consumption in Tirupur town per year is 437,760 tonnes. Present indicators point out that firewood consumption in Tirupur region is above 7,00,000 tones per year.


Study on the consumption of firewood in the garment clusters of Tirupur

Field observations On the outskirts of Tirupur, at a weighbridge, there is a long line-up of trucks. The drivers have alighted and are awaiting their turn for their trucks to be weighed. The trucks carry different commodities such as corn, poultry feed, etc., but a majority of them carry firewood. The trucks are filled with different varieties of wood and some of them also carry a mix of huge, medium and small logs, signifying that the wood has been sourced from different kinds of trees. The big logs are obviously from large mature trees, such as tamarind; some of the logs have numbers etched into them, indicating they have been sourced from a highway. The other, thin twig-like logs belong to the mullu veli and karuvelam (local varieties of thorny bushes) species. The drivers reveal that they have been sourced from marginal lands and dry tank beds where they grow and where agriculture is not possible. After being weighed, the trucks will go to pre-designated agents, who will then direct them to different dyeing, bleaching and calendaring units, which use firewood for their operations. There is a sustained, daily demand for large quantities of firewood in Tirupur. Firewood is the main source of fuel for dyeing, bleaching and calendaring operations. The firewood is collected and transported to Tirupur from villages and areas near Salem, Ramnathpuram, Sivagangai, Thanjavur, Pudukottai, Cuddalore and Karur. As indicated earlier, the most commonly used types of firewood are velam, karuvelam and eucalyptus. These woods have more market value because of their capacity to produce more heat, and therefore more steam and less ash. Mixed loads cost less as there is variation between woods in the heat producing capacity. Smaller logs are preferred by firewood users as they burn faster and more evenly and are therefore more cost-effective. Juli Flora popularly known us ‘Babool’ in Hindi and ‘Karuvelam’ in Tamil requires very little water and grows abundantly into a thorny bush, 28

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providing raw material for charcoal manufacturing and as firewood. It is a livelihood option for many rural poor in the district. Juli Flora is a common crop in waste lands, especially in states like Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Notwithstanding, or rather because of the high demand, there are several problems associated with the use of firewood, with regard to availability and environmental impact. On the one hand, the demand for firewood is high and to ensure timely supplies, firewood is sourced from as far as 350 kms. This has, steadily over a period of time, steeply driven the cost of firewood upwards, owing to high costs of transportation, thereby impacting the bottom lines of these units. Mr Samiappan, President of the Dyers Association of Tirupur (DAT) says, “Less than 10 years ago, we were paying Rs.500 per tonne of firewood. Currently we pay Rs. 2500 per tonne, and even at that rate, firewood is sometimes difficult to come by. Our profits come down owing to this. Almost 15 per cent of our production costs go into purchase of firewood. During the monsoons, we spend even more.” There are fears that forests around the region might be getting eroded in order to keep up with the demand, which continues to grow in the absence of any options to firewood for fuel. According to “Applied Industrial Ecology – a New Platform for Planning Sustainable Societies,” (2003) by Suren Erkman and Ramesh Ramaswamy, nearly half a million tonnes (4,37,760 tonnes) of firewood, chopped from the nearby forests, are needed annually for steam calendaring, bleaching and dyeing operations. Mr. K.P. Natarajan, President, Tirupur Viraghu Commission Vyaparigal Sangham says, “Firewood is a vital requirement for sustenance of the garment industry. The demand is growing as the industry grows, and we are finding it difficult to cope with the demand. To keep up supplies, we are now sourcing firewood from far away destinations. The prices are also not steady and this causes hardship to us as well as consumers. We understand concerns about deforestation, and would definitely welcome alternatives to firewood, if there were any.” To understand firewood usage in Tirupur in all its dimensions, it is important to understand the background and importance of the garment industry, which sustains the entire town and the surrounding regions, and contributes greatly to the economy of the state and the country 29

Study on the consumption of firewood in the garment clusters of Tirupur

Firewood usage in garment sector

Various supply chain channels have been involved in firewood usage in the garment sector. Dyeing, compacting, washing and rotary printing are some of the major components of the supply chain. A completely finished product can come out successfully only if this process goes on smoothly. Firewood is, in this process, used as a source of energy wherein 99 per cent of source energy for this product is produced by it. Though solar energy and power energy are utilized as alternative sources, it is used mainly because of the compulsion of the buyers. However solar and power energy usage is not successful as far as Tirupur is concerned as these cannot produce the required amount of heat so as to carry out the needed processes. Hence firewood is the ideal source of energy as if it only produces the required amount of heat. Dried branch of the coconut tree (thennai mattai), coconut shell (thenkaae kuduvai) and knitted cloth waste are also used as alternative sources of energy which sometimes replace the use of firewood whenever there is a shortage of firewood. Further, it costs less. But the fire produced by karuvelam burns for a long time and produces more heat. These alternative sources cannot compete with firewood as far as burning longevity and amount of heat production is concerned. Moreover these alternatives produce more smoke which causes environmental degradation. Particularly the pollution emitted through burning knitted cloth will be comparatively higher than firewood. The very important thing is that the wood used as firewood for the various processes in the garment industry are not those banned by the forest department. Types of fire wood and the kind of soil on which it grows

A handful of farmers in Tirupur and other parts of southern Tamil Nadu cultivate karuvelam exclusively for the garment industry. The low rainfall, shortage of water and the condition of the soil are three major reasons for the farmers to get involved in this occupation. Karuvelam, mulluvele, velavela, vembu, unjal and the short thorny plants are the shrubs/trees used as firewood. The growth of these trees depends directly on the nature of the soil. The trees grown in loose soil (Saralai), red loamy soil (semman) and clayey soil (kaliman) are of better quality and are valued the highest as they will burn for a long time. Whereas the trees grown in sandy soil (Manal) and alluvial soil (vandal man) are not very strong and will burn out easily. Therefore, the cost of wood from these types of trees is a little less. 30

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Karuvelam is the ideal tree for fire wood as it will burn for a long time and it will produce adequate heat while burning. Hence karuvelam is sold for a good price and there is always a demand for karuvelam tree. Supply chain

Farmers grow the trees for firewood on their own land, temple lands or on the inside of tanks. However, most of firewood comes from trees that are cut from common property resources, rather than from private land. The value of the firewood is not assessed by weighment at source (in tonnes or kg). Rather, the middlemen (first in the supply chain) estimate the value of the wood just by seeing the extent of the trees grown in an area and its density. They employ wood cutters to cut the trees and the wages for the woodcutters varies from Rs 150 to Rs 250. The woodcutters are from the local villages and have not migrated from other areas. They do not get adequate work during the monsoons as they cannot carry out tree-cutting during this season. The woodcutters are willing to grow fire wood trees in Government-owned (poramboku) land. The middlemen settle the cost of the firewood to the farmers in a single instalment. Likewise, the wages for the woodcutters is also immediately paid by the farmers. The cut trees are weighed by the transport agents and be sold to the traders at a ‘sales point’. The traders too pay up the cost of the firewood in a single installment. The middle men (second in the supply chain) buy from the traders and sell to the factories whenever it is required. The middlemen collect their dues on credit basis after a month. Many labourers are employed by the factory. Particularly in the section where firewood is used, two labourers work in two shifts. But adequate safety measures are not provided to them. Moreover they work in an environment of extreme heat. It was noticed that children are not employed in this supply chain. The number of women employed in this occupation is very less as the nature of work is arduous. Economics of firewood

About 350 loads of firewood are consumed per day in Tirupur region. Each load consists of 14 to 18 tonnes. The cost per tonne of wood is Rs 2000 to Rs 3500 based on the thickness of the wood. If, on an average, 5250 tonnes (350 loads X 15 tonnes) of wood is consumed, the total transaction per day works out to Rs. 1,31,25,000. 31

Study on the consumption of firewood in the garment clusters of Tirupur

Cultivation and consumption of fire wood

It is only recently that farmers have started cultivating trees for firewood. Most of the trees are found on common property as the seeds were planted in these areas by the then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Mr. Kamaraj. However, the Government has stopped karuvelam cultivation. The Government has also not cultivated any trees for firewood. The trees grown inside the tanks are uprooted by the Government as it consumes a lot of water which decreases the water storage capacity of the tank. Hence the Government has not initiated any effort to grow these trees inside tanks or on its edges. As discussed above, 350 loads of firewood are consumed per day and at the same time no action has been initiated to cultivate the firewood trees. The imbalance between less cultivation and more consumption will soon lead to heavy shortage for fire wood which ultimately will affect the entire garment sector’s business. No one has a viable plan to cultivate firewood trees. Large areas of land around Tirupur area have become wasteland because of shortage of water; these lands can be used for fire wood tree cultivation. Farmers’ association and firewood

Though there is a farmers’ association functioning in Tirupur, the woodcutters and the farmers who cultivate the firewood trees are not included in this association. The farmers’ association does not promote firewood tree plantation. Their opinion is that any sort of cultivation should have a direct bearing with food production. Whereas, the molasses from the dyeing factory pollute the rivers as well as the ground water which has turned the fertile land to wasteland. Hence, the farmers are reluctant to use the land for growing trees to support this business chain. Middlemen and firewood

The middlemen assume all responsibilities from cutting the tree till it is supplied to the factory. The middlemen have their own association in Tirupur. Whenever there is a demand for fire wood, they will ensure its supply one way or the other. They will deliver the firewood as soon as the demand is made over the telephone. The payment is made on credit basis. Many middle men play the role of traders also. It is inevitable that they buy the firewood in bulk and store it in their godown. They are in constant fear of shortage of firewood. 32

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Alternative sources

Electricity and solar energy are two alternatives to firewood recommended and have also been used as alternative for firewood. The factories too prefer these alternatives to firewood as it enables them to get internationally recognized certification. Eight factory owners were interviewed for this study and they expressed their opinion that solar energy and electricity are not producing the required heat which is needed to run the boilers in the garment business. Karuvelam firewood alone produces adequate heat for the boilers. Thennai mattai (branches of the coconut tree), thennai kuduvai (coconut shell) and waste garment cloth are used as other alternatives for firewood. These are available at cheap rates when there is an additional demand for firewood. However, all these alternatives do not burn for a long time like karuvelam. Moreover, it produces more smoke which causes air pollution. Hence this study shows that there is no viable alternative to firewood for the Tirupur garment cluster at the moment. Firewood and greenhouse gas reduction

In a study on “Firewood and woody biomass and their role in greenhouse gas reduction� for the Department of Primary Industries, State of Victoria, Australia, published in Agriculture Notes (April 2008 issue), the author clearly explained the role of firewood in minimizing air pollution. He argued that fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal fired electricity release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere during production and burning. He further argued that growing trees absorb most of the carbon dioxide that is emitted during the harvesting, processing and burning of the firewood. These trees in return, release oxygen into the atmosphere as well as storing carbon, resulting in a reduction in greenhouse gases and a virtually carbon neutral process.


Study on the consumption of firewood in the garment clusters of Tirupur

Findings, Recommendations and Conclusion Findings Š Trees are cut for the purpose of firewood to be used in garment

industries whereas new saplings are not planted in order to balance the tree felling. The number of garment production units is proliferating day by day which paves way for more consumption of fire wood. However the volume of tree plantation is not on par with the demand which is likely to create a shortage of natural fire wood in near future. However, since the trees used for fire wood are neither horticultural nor cultivated trees, there is no deforestation. Š The alternative energies, viz., solar energy and electricity are not

adequate for the garment sector. Š In addition to the garment sector, firewood is used in hotels, brick

chambers and for household use. Š Charcoal is used in workshops, ironing, and jewel making. Š Firewood ash is not properly disposed of as it is dumped in the Noyyal

river. Š There is no prevalence of child labour in the entire supply chain. Š 350 loads, that is 5250 tonnes, of firewood per day is consumed in

this area. Š The price of firewood during the monsoon is scaled up as there is

water stagnation in tanks and cultivated areas thus preventing the cutting of the trees. Moreover the transport of the fire wood is also difficult which causes the price of the firewood to go up during the rainy season. 34

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Only the middlemen assume the responsibilities from cutting trees to transporting the fire wood to the industry.

Š Farmers, wood-cutters, middlemen, drivers, weighing machine

operators, traders, proprietors, laborers are various stakeholders in the supply chain. Š Firewood is used in the following activities: dyeing, washing, compacting

and rotary printing. Solar energy and electricity are not successful alternatives for this industry. Š The major quantity of firewood is drawn from places other than Tirupur

district. Š Since Tirupur is known for its plethora of garment industries, the

migrant labour force is constantly increasing and hence the release of more carbon is not uncommon here. Recommendations Š This study shows the urgent need for growing more number of trees

in Tirupur region. Š The proprietor, middlemen, etc. should be motivated to cultivate more

trees. Š Government may motivate farmers to cultivate firewood trees on

wasteland. Š Since the standard of living of the labourers depending on the firewood

supply chain for their livelihood is bad, a separate Board may be constituted for their welfare. Š Trees should be grown so as to reduce the carbon emission levels in

Tirupur and, at the same time, these trees can be used as firewood. Š The companies which are into firewood consumption can adopt villages

and support farmers directly in the cultivation and procurement of firewood, thus creating an environment for increased profit for the companies as well as the farmers. This also involves the development of the community. Associations can be formed on both sides to ensure smooth trade. Š Awareness to farmers should be imparted on the shortage of wood

that might arise in the near future due to the high consumption of firewood in Tirupur garment Industry. An association of farmers producing firewood can be formed. Farmers should be encouraged to grow more velam, karuvelam and veli trees towards creating sustainable wood production and also to improve the economic conditions of 35

Study on the consumption of firewood in the garment clusters of Tirupur

their community as these trees in recent years have evolved as “cash crops”. Š Increasing the boiler efficiency by improving the design of the boilers. Š Reduce leakages in boilers. Š Reduc the distance between the boilers and the point of usage of

steam. Š Co–generation: super heat steam to be used for power generation and

then after it becomes saturated steam use it for heat transfer. Š Using a central steam generating system. Consultation with stakeholders

The study on the consumption of firewood and the findings/ recommendations were discussed with stakeholders at Tirupur. Some of the suggestions/recommendations that arose are: Š No farmer can cultivate firewood on a large scale in the small area of

land that is available to him. Hence the Government should support large scale cultivation. Š As the buyer/ILO insists on certain standards of compliance in the

industry, ILO should be asked to pressurize the Government to support large scale cultivation of karuvellam. Pressure can also be applied on the Government through the Tirupur Steering Group. Š The situation in the districts where firewood is grown should be studied

with reference to the livelihood options that can be created for the persons involved in the supply chain at this point. The situation is serious as farmers/cultivators are abandoning their occupation and migrating to Tirupur to work in the garment sector. Š As the firewood supply chain touches the lives of about 50,000 to

75,000 persons, every effort should be taken to increase the cultivation of firewood. Š One suggestion was to use natural gas as fuel. Although it is economical

to use, initial investment is high and is not feasible for small and medium enterprises. Š Briquettes could be produced but it is a little expensive. Š Vast tracts of land are lying fallow in Ramanathapuram district.

Cultivation in these lands should be supported by the Government. 36

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Firewood in Tirupur is used as a source of energy for the garment sector. At the same time, it acts as a major livelihood source for many poor people. There are no viable alternative sources for fire wood. Further Study

The increasing demand for firewood per year indicates that commercial growing of firewood to replenish supplies would be an option. This however might mean loss of agricultural land and consumption of large quantities of water, which is already scarce and also polluted. It is important to examine the impact on the food security of the region. It is also important to examine whether these farmers can be shifted to growing plantations for the purpose of supplying firewood and thereby ensure that their purchasing power is enhanced. The potentially deleterious effects as well as the economics of cultivating species like Prosopis in India or as a whole in tropics should be the subject of more research efforts, management systems and debates among researchers, Governmental and Non-Governmental organizations and other stakeholders. Issues of pollution especially the carbon emissions, rise of temperatures in the area and prevalence of ash and atmospheric pollution are causes for concern for the general population. Further studies need to be conducted to quantify the levels of pollution from firewood. The health impact on various stakeholders is another area to be looked into especially in the context of respiratory and bronchial infections, the various skin ailments and allergies that occur due to use of firewood. The living conditions of labourers involved in the process of firewood collection and their issues should also be studied. The working conditions of labourers in boiler operations need to be studied and safety factors looked into. The source of firewood and the reason behind the marginal farmers felling the plants can be studied. The average working hours of the labourers in the industry is reported to be 90 hours per week. However during peak seasons, piece rate workers often are forced to work more than 120 hours per week. The fulfilling of targets also means the employment of child labour by families themselves. This raises the disturbing trend of invisible child labour- this issue needs to be researched and proactive steps undertaken. 37

Study on the consumption of firewood in the garment clusters of Tirupur

One of the major challenges the industry faces is the very future of firewood-based boilers which as days go by become unsustainable. The question of alternate technology which is cleaner, ecologically sustainable and economically viable needs to be debated with multi stakeholder participation.


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Acknowledgments Factory workers interviewed

Mr. Raju, Tirupur Mr. Balu, Tirupur Mr. Ramesh, Tirupur, Mr. Guna, Tirupur Factories in Tirupur

Karunambika Sathya Steam Udayam Dyeing unit Sarinitha compacting unit Lakshimi compacting and drying unit Federations and Associations in Tirupur

Mr. Ramakrishna, SHIMA Mr. Govidaswami, Tirupur Manufactures Association (TMA) Mr. Senthil, Tirupur Dyeing Association (TDA) Agricultural Groups Mr. Mani, Tirupur Vivasaya Sangham Brokers/Agents in Tirupur

Mr. Isaraj, M/s Swami and Co Mr. Bagyaraja Mr. Kaliyappan


Study on the consumption of firewood in the garment clusters of Tirupur

Brokers/Agents in Kangayam

Mr. Kannan, Guru timbers Mr. Palanichami, Selvi timbers Weighbridges in Tirupur

Mr. Bagyaraja TKT weighbridge Labourers / Woodcutters in Kangayam

Mr. Palanichami, Kambiliyanpatty Mr. Krishnappan, Kangayam Gunasekharan, Kangayam


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Prakruthi Enabling Sustainability

Prakruthi, Bangalore-based non-profit organisation established in 1991, envisages a society where the economic and social divide created by a non-egalitarian system is minimised. In attempting to do this, Prakruthi works with the poor and the marginalised in various sectors of Indian economy such as the plantation workers, small and marginal farmers, women, youth and children. It has adopted the strategy of linking the corporate world and communities of people in trying to achieve our stated mission. In the new millennium Prakruthi took a conscious shift to address issues raised by liberalisation, privatization and globalization. Pursuing this paradigm shift today its programs and projects are focused on linking deprived grassroots communities with the emerging new opportunities in a globalised world.

Solidaridad, established in 1976 in The Hague, Netherlands as a development organization, is now an International Network Organisation of nine equal members. South and South East Asia, with its huge market, rapidly growing global economic and political role and its advancement in the CSR discourse and yet its challenges of addressing the Millennium Development Goals, makes it an important region for Solidaridad to design and implement sustainability programmes through its office in New Delhi, India in collaboration with different local partners. The regional office, primarily focussing on India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia addresses the issues in cotton, textiles, tea, coffee, soy, palm oil, cocoa and sugarcane sectors.


Burning issue, consumption of firewood in the garment clusters of Tirupur  
Burning issue, consumption of firewood in the garment clusters of Tirupur  

This study sought to find out how much wood is being consumed in the Tirupur knitwear industry; what are the environmental, economical and s...