In the next 25 years, India’s leather industry aims to become net-zero to meet the environmental norms.

Indian Science and Technology Minister Jitendra Singh said that with an aim to consciously reduce carbon emissions from the leather industry in the country, India will be offering attractive financial support to start-ups to come up with innovative and market-friendly leather products.

The minister said so while addressing the Platinum Jubilee celebrations of CSIR-Central Leather Research Institute in Chennai on Thursday.

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Referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pitch for new innovations and next-generation technologies, Singh said, the sustainability of the leather sector is likely to emerge as the new challenge for CSIR-CLRI (Council of Scientific and Industrial Research-Central Leather Research Institute) in its journey from the platinum to the centenary.

He said the new vision for leather research and industry in India during the next 25 years may need to be based on sustainability, net-zero carbon footprint, gaining total recyclability of leather-based materials, bio-economy of animal skin-derived products, and ensuring income parity for workers, besides brand building.

According to a UN Study, per square meter of leather emits around 17 kg of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) after the slaughterhouse section of the leather supply chain.

As per to the Indian minister, the project will be implemented in 73 districts in the first phase.

“The carbon footprint of leather processing in India needs to approach zero levels and the bio-economy of animal skin-derived products is the new mantra of the time,” the minister said, adding that the carrying capacity requirements of the leather sector in locations like Tamil Nadu demand the implementation of Zero Liquid Discharge as the enforced environmental norm, which is under discussion.

India is looking to design and develop leather footwear into foot care solutions with foot hygiene and wearer comfort as unique selling properties.

The country is also on the path to preparing customised footwear for Indians by using 3D technology to scan a person’s feet to make their footwear.

“There are as many as half a million cells in the palm of feet that enable the sweating process and leather enjoys an unmatched potential for transpiration,” Singh said.

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The Minister also pointed out that diabetic footwear is one such product that ensures a better quality of life due to the reduction in the abnormal distribution of foot plantar pressure. Foot plantar pressure is the pressure field that acts between the foot and the support surface during everyday locomotor activities.

Singh expressed satisfaction that in 2021, export realisation from the leather sector is valued at Rs 40,000 crores.

The Indian minister said that collagen-based innovative biomaterials for applications in human health care are new opportunities and they could become co-products of leather if next-generation leather-making technologies avoid contaminating skin-based matrix materials with lime, sulfide, and many other sensitive chemicals.

“There is a possibility for CLRI to emerge as the game-changer in the knowledge domain and to make the leather sector matter even more for the new India of the future,” he said.

In 1947, the Indian leather sector provided livelihood opportunities to about 50,000 people, but today it supports the livelihood of more than 45 lakh people in the country.

The Indian leather sector has made tangible and traceable contributions to social equity. It has been scientifically assessed that technology utilisation in the footwear industry has significantly contributed to women’s empowerment, he said, lauding the social equity benefits of women empowerment emanating from the leather industry since 1950.

The Minister also lauded the role of the CLRI in helping the tannery sector in Tamil Nadu to restore operations when the Supreme Court ordered the closure of about 400 tanneries in 1996 through the innovative deployment of “Do Ecology” solutions in all the 764 functional tanneries within nine months.

He concluded that this was a landmark contribution to public-funded research in the country and there are several contributions of CLRI that have formed an integral part of the developments of the leather sector in India.

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