This issue contains two technical articles which highlight the necessity of protecting the water supply which is of primary importance to sustaining life on our planet. Both articles relate to India, the country we are focusing on in this edition, but water husbandry is essential everywhere.

Professor Goutam Mukherjee, senior lecturer at the Government College of Engineering & Leather Technology, Kolkata, proposes a new tanning process which removes basification and washing and takes hides directly from liming to chrome. He points to the fact that conventional chrome tanning subjects the hides and skins to treatment with a wide variety of chemicals and involves an enormous amount of time, while also contributing to an increase in COD, chlorides, sulfates and other mineral salts, which end up as effluent. But, perhaps more alarmingly, is the fact that the process uses profuse quantities of water in areas where there is rapid depletion of ground water.

To overcome this, his work set out to find a process which would reduce water usage through deliming, pickle and basification-free chrome tanning and would remove associated washings which follow liming and deliming operations by the conventional method. Professor Mukherjee says that it has been estimated that by 2025AD, 1.8 billion people will live in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity.

Our other technical article, by T Ramasami, N K Chandra Babu, C Muralidharan, J Ragava Rao, and P Saravanan of the CLRI and Catherine Money, Mark Hickey, Ken Montgomery, Cameron Simpson, and Chi Huynh of CSIRO concerns an ACIAR funded project on Salinity Reduction in Tannery Effluents in India and Australia.

India has a huge tanning industry and is one of the few areas in the world which is showing a healthy growth rate. Water is obviously of major concern and huge efforts have been made to provide tanneries with access to common effluent treatment plants.

I have visited a number of CETPs in India in my time and have been very impressed with what I have seen. However, it is a sad fact that total dissolved solids, TDS, salinity, call it what you will, is still a problem. And India is without doubt one of the regions where water is in short supply in much of the country.

Over the years, Catherine Money spent a lot of time working on such issues as salinity. She has now retired and, sadly, the CSIRO Leather Research Centre has closed. Dr Money could have retired in 2004 but chose to remain with the project until it was completed. It was she who presented the work at the Florence IULTCS Congress.

Technology for TDS reduction has been developed and demonstrated. However, to achieve significant TDS reductions in India, there will need to be considerable uptake of low salt preservation of skins and chilling of hides. The proposed low salt preservation will entail little change for first handlers of skins but greater care will be required to ensure even salt application. There will be resistance to change. One possibility that may bring about change, however, is if the tanner could pay more for skins with less salt and good preservation and less for skins with excess salt.

The costs associated with chilling will be considerable and it is generally accepted that those who gain from the development should bear the cost. It is possible that the government may provide loans which industry would repay. Costs and benefits first need to be determined.

The collaborating tanners will be the champions of the new technologies. If, once the technology has been proven to them, and they adopt the new systems, then others are expected to follow. However, as stated, there is always enormous resistance to change and India has never been considered a fast paced nation.

India is on the brink of enormous success in the leather industry.

It will be interesting to see if they really can take up the challenge and pick up a share of the market which will accord with the size of the country and the resources it has to offer.

Shelagh Davy