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Grasim Industries (Aditya Birla Group) Viscose Plant, Nagda in Madhya Pradesh, India

The largest viscose fibre plant in India may be linked to crop damage, water scarcity, pollution, disease and severe occupational health hazards.


Background: Viscose (or rayon)  has often been marketed as a more ecologically sustainable alternative to polyester because unlike polyester which is made from petrochemicals, viscose is made from cellulose. It is also praised by some fashion brands because it requires less water to produce compared with cotton. Viscose is found in a huge variety of clothes and is used by almost every major fashion brand to some extent. Although not inherently unsustainable, it is the production process of viscose that presents a very problematic story. Basically, wood pulp is extracted from wood, then turned into viscose staple fibre (VSF) and filament yarn through a highly chemical process using carbon disulphide. Viscose production faces a three pronged issue: the risk of deforestation of ancient forests, occupational hazards of factory workers who are exposed to highly dangerous toxins that have been linked to neurological damage, and heavy contamination that results from poor waste management of viscose factories, not only polluting nearby waters and air, but causing widespread illnesses to villagers in the vicinity of factories. [1][2]

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Grasim Industries (Aditya Birla Group) Viscose Plant, Nagda in Madhya Pradesh, India
State or province:Madhya Pradesh
Location of conflict:Nagda
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Dams and water distribution conflicts
Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Chemical industries
Specific commodities:Chemical products
Industrial waste
viscose, wood pulp
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Grasim Industries has 4 viscose plants in India with a combined capacity of 498,000 tonnes per annum. At Nagda, about nine hectares is used by Grasim Industries. “The population of Nagda municipality is 100,039 as per the 2011 Census of India, out of which around 31,000 individuals are engaged in work or a business activity.” [1]. According to Changing Markets, Grasim Industries has also proposed to expand their viscose staple fibre capacity from about 1,44,175 tonnes per year to 2,33,600 per year, as well as increasing their sulphuric acid production (Sulphuric acid is a chemical which is used in the production of viscose) [1]. This is expected to put an even heavier burden on nearby villages as Grasim Industries will require even more water form Chambal river for the expansion to be possible.

Type of populationSemi-urban
Start of the conflict:1980
Company names or state enterprises:Grasim Industries from India - plant owner
Aditya Birla Group from India
Relevant government actors:Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)
State Pollution Control Board (SPCB)
Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Industrial workers
Informal workers
Forms of mobilization:Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Soil erosion
Health ImpactsVisible: Occupational disease and accidents
Potential: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood
Potential: Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment
Project StatusIn operation
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The Grasim plant is in operation and not likely to stop its activities. Sufferers have not received compensation.
Sources & Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Water Act, amended in 1988

Air (Prevention and Control) Act, 1981

Environment (Protection) Act, 1986

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[2] Blanc, P.D. 2016, Fake silk: the lethal history of viscose rayon, Yale University Press, Cumberland.

[4] Lora-Wainwright, A. 2017, 'Resigned Activism: Living with Pollution in Rural China', MIT Press

[5] Pinney, C 1999, 'On living in the kal(i)yug: Notes from Nagda, Madhya Pradesh', Contributions to Indian Sociology, vol. 33, no. 1-2, p. 77.

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[1] Changing Markets Foundation 2017, Dirty Fashion: How pollution in the global textiles supply chain is making viscose toxic
[click to view]

[3] Patrika News 2017, "Grasim and rural face in Nagda controversy over increasing the height of the dam"
[click to view]

Other comments:This sheet mostly draws from the report by Changing Markets Foundation 2017, "Dirty Fashion: How pollution in the global textiles supply chain is making viscose toxic"
Meta information
Contributor:Mariko Takedomi Karlsson, research intern @ EnvJustice, [email protected]
Last update18/08/2019
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