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Burning biomass is not green

Written By BiharWatch on Thursday, October 18, 2007 | 11:19 PM

The Municipal Corporation of Delhi and the Timarpur Waste Management Company Pvt. Ltd., have proposed a waste incineration plant to treat the city's solid waste and generate 6 MW of electricity. TWMPCL has applied to a United Nations body for tradable carbon credits. Gopal Krishna find much wrong in the proposal.

The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) has proposed to initiate a waste to energy (WTE) project at Timarpur that uses incineration. The Timarpur Waste Management Company Pvt. Ltd. (TWMCPL), a subsidiary of Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd. (IL&FS) plans to generate 6 MW of electricity from the project at Timarpur, Delhi. It plans to process and treat 214,500 MT of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) and produce 69,000 MT of Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) in a year as per company's project design document. The project requires an investment of Rs.580 million. The promoters claim that the Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance has agreed to provide 20% of the project's cost as a capital grant.

TWMCPL is a subsidiary of IL&FS and has been created only for Timarpur project. A Memorandum of Understanding between MCD and IL&FS was signed in March 2005 by D K Mittal, the CEO of TWMCPL and Rakesh Mehta, IAS the then Commissioner of MCD. Currently Mehta is Principal Secretary and Chairman-cum-Managing Director of Delhi Tansco Limited in Delhi Government. Mittal is also a serving IAS officer, besides being the CEO, Special Infrastructure Projects, Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (IL&FS) and a member, Supreme Court Committee on Waste to Energy despite being an interested party. Mittal was earlier with Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

On 14 March 2005, MCD said that it plans to earn carbon credits from the project. TWMPCL has since applied for approval from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change's (UNFCCC) Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) Executive Board to earn carbon credit. The project got listed before the board on 23 May 2006, and the board sought comments until 21 June. TWMCPL had submitted its project design document.

The CDM Executive Board of the UNFCCC supervises the Clean Development Mechanism part of the Kyoto Protocol, and is accountable to the Conference of Parties (COP), the decision making body for the protocol.

The Kyoto Protocol entered into force on 16 February 2005, after which the CDM Executive Board started registering projects. The board is based in Bonn, Germany, at the UNFCCC Secretariat.

The Chair of the CDM Executive Board is Jos� Domingos Miguez. There are two Indian members as well in the Board, out of its 10 members from the parties to the Protocol. The Indian members are Sushma Gera and Rajesh Kumar Sethi. In addition, there are 10 alternate members in the Board.

The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) allows industrialised countries to meet their emission reduction targets by paying for green house gas emission reduction in developing countries. Say that a company in India switches from coal power to biomass and that the CDM board certifies that by doing this, the company has reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 100,000 tonnes per year. The company will be issued 100,000 Certified Emissions Reductions (CERs). One CER corresponds to reduced green house gas emissions by one tonne of carbon dioxide per year. For example, if a project generates energy using wind power instead of burning coal, and saves 50 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, it can claim 50 CERs.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, the United Kingdom (a developed country) has to reduce its green house gas emissions by 1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. Continuing with the example above, if the UK purchases the 100,000 CERs from the Indian company, its target goes down from 1 million tonnes/year to 900,000 tonnes per year, making the goal that much easier to achieve. Developed countries are expected to buy CERs from developing countries under the CDM process to help them achieve their Kyoto targets. CERs are therefore a "certificate", like a stock and help achieve trading of emissions credits.

A significant point to note is that in India, income from CERs are not taxed. MCD and TWMCPL are arguing that since they propose to generate electricity using a non-conventional energy source instead of fossil fuel, the Timarpur project must be deemed a renewable energy project and for which carbon credits be given to them. TWMCPL wants to receive CERs for this project to earn revenue by selling those CERs.

Problems galore

The central problem with the Timarpur proposal is that waste burning technology cannot automatically be deemed a renewable energy project. If anything, MCD and TWMCPL's attempt to classify the WTE plant as a CDM project is far fetched and misleading. Waste incineration is itself a greenhouse gas emitter and cannot qualify as CDM project. Incineration of waste violates Kyoto Protocol because as per the Protocol waste incineration is a green house gas emitter.

For a project to qualify as climate change mitigating project it is necessary that it excludes waste incineration -- including waste pelletisation or RDF, pyrolysis, gasification systems -- technologies. Incineration produces pollutants which are detrimental to health and the environment. Incineration is expensive and does not eliminate or adequately control the toxic emissions from today's chemically complex municipal discards. Even the latest incinerators release toxic metals, dioxins, and acid gases. Far from eliminating the need for a landfill, waste incinerator systems produce toxic ash and other residues. Such projects disperse incinerator ash throughout the environment and subsequently enter our food chain.

Two, the design document deliberately chooses not to mention emission of dioxins and heavy metals and thus does not mention the method to deal with such emissions. Dioxins are the most lethal Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) which are associated with irreparable environmental health consequences.

Three, less known is the fact that a similar incinerator-cum-power generation plant at this very site had failed several years ago and the reasons are worth going into. The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) had also conducted an enquiry after the Delhi High Court ruled in April 2001 on the plant's failure. The court had taken issue with the procurement of the incineration plant at a cost of Rs.20 crores from a Danish firm Volund Milijotecknik in the mid-1980s and said that "No order should have been placed for procurement of the plant unless its utilities were completely known."

A Ministry of Environment and Forests 1997 white paper had gone into the orginally failed waste incineration plant at Timarpur, a project initiated in the mid-80s.

The MoEF paper said that the failure supported the fact that thermal treatment of municipal solid waste is not feasible in situations where the waste has a low calorific value.

It added: "A critical analysis of biological treatment as an option was undertaken for processing of municipal solid waste in Delhi and it has been recommended that composting will be a viable option."

In June 2005, Gurudas Kamat (MP, Congress, Mumbai North-east), Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Energy wrote to the MNES seeking review of its WTE programme, citing similar reasons.

Criticism did not come just from the Delhi High Court. Referring among other things to the orginally failed Timarpur incineration plant, a 'White Paper on Pollution in Delhi with an Action Plan' prepared by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests prepared in 1997, said this: "The experience of the incineration plant at Timarpur, Delhi and the briquette plant at Bombay support the fact that thermal treatment of municipal solid waste is not feasible, in situations where the waste has a low calorific value. A critical analysis of biological treatment as an option was undertaken for processing of municipal solid waste in Delhi and it has been recommended that composting will be a viable option. Considering the large quantities of waste requiring to be processed, a mechanical composting plant will be needed."

Four, besides the Kyoto Protocol, the project violates other agreed upon multilateral conventions. It breaks with the Stockholm Convention on POPs because it calls for improvements in waste management with the aim of the cessation of open and other uncontrolled burning of wastes. It violates Dhaka Declaration on Waste Management adopted by South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in October 2004. As per this declaration, SAARC countries cannot opt for incineration and other unproven technologies.

It is inspite of all this that in March 2005, the MCD signed an agreement with IL&FS to setup a waste incineration plant afresh at Timarpur. This time around, civil society groups protested at the India International Centre, the Delhi Secretariat, and MCD offices. Protest letters were submitted to ministers and officials both at the central and state levels. Around 60 individuals participated.

Caught in a time warp

Unmindful of the fact that waste incinerator technologies are net energy losers when the embodied energy of the materials burned is accounted for, the Union Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources (MNES) continues to promote it without any success. It is providing subsidy to such projects through its policy. It has written to all state governments to follow this policy as part of an excecutive order. MNES has now been renamed as Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.

However, not only the judiciary, but a Parliamentary committee has also expressed its opinion against incineration projects. Referring to two burn projects in Andhra Pradesh as well to problems of incineration in general, Gurudas Kamat (Congress, Mumbai North-east), the Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Energy wrote to the MNES on 14 June 2005 seeking review of its WTE programme. Kamat supported a ban on economic incentives for such projects, writing this: "We therefore direct that land filling of unsegregated wastes, incineration and recovery of energy from municipal waste shall henceforth not receive any Govt. sponsorship, encouragement or aid in any manner, except for completion of any projects that have already invested 30% of their capital cost on site."

It is not that better methods of handling municipal waste in Indian cities are unknown. Researchers of waste suggest that composting and recycling materials is a better alternative because it saves the amount of energy that incinerating these same materials would generate. When properly applied, compost prepared from segregated waste is an excellent organic fertilizer. Burning organic waste litter eliminates this valuable resource. Where volumes are too high for local land application, composting is a more sustainable alternative. Organic fertilizer can be analysed and managed before application; but smokestack emissions are dispersed by the wind.

On one occasion, Dr Abdul Kalam rightly summed up the need for integrated zero waste management. He illustrated this by referring to Gandhi Nagar, a town panchayat of around 2,400 families in Vellore district, Tamil Nadu. Gandhi Nagar generates garbage of over 48 tonnes per year. This garbage is converted into manure and recyclable waste generating over Rs.3 lakh in revenue, and the scheme provides employment to local people. Such measures promote sustainable development as against the current trend of introducing failed polluting technologies, which turn citizens into guinea pigs for experiments.

In a related development in favour of this approach, the Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Integrated Plant Nutrient Management has recommended setting up of 1000 compost plants all over the country and has allocated Rs.800 crore for the same in the year 2005. This report has been submitted in the Supreme Court in the writ (civil) no. 888/1996) case. Ntably, this report recommends composting as a measure for waste management instead of energy recovery because Indian soil is carbon deficit.


The ideal resource management strategy for municipal solid waste is to avoid its generation in the first place. This implies changing production and consumption patterns to eliminate the use of disposable, non-reusable, non-returnable products and packaging. The alternative waste disposal methods include waste reduction, waste segregation at source, extended use and refuse, recycling, biomethanation technology and composting.

In sum, the Timarpur project is technologically incompatible with reducing dioxins emissions and at the same relies on minimum guaranteed waste flows. It indirectly promotes continued waste generation while hindering waste prevention, reuse, composting, recycling, and recycling-based community economic development. It costs cities and municipalities more and provides fewer jobs than comprehensive recycling and composting. It prohibits the development of local recycling-based businesses.

One the question of CERs, while it remains to be seen what the CDM Executive Board will do, it is very likely it will not accept the TWMCPL proposal, as it is against the letter and spirit of the Kyoto Protocol.

This article has been published by www.indiatogether.org


In March 2007, centre gave its nod to the solid waste management (SWM) projects to be established in Lucknow and Agra. While the state capital would have it established at the cost of nearly Rs 48 crores, the project for the City of Taj will come at a cost of Rs 38 crores. The sop to the two cities comes as part of Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewable Mission (JNNURM). The projects have been cleared by the Union ministry of urban development.

Sources said that the projects have been planned for the next five years and would be backed by the Central grant amounting to 50 percent of the net cost. Of the rest, 20 percent would be given by the state government and 30 percent by the local bodies, as envisaged under JNNURM.

In Lucknow, the plan focusses on revival of the long defunct Rs 180 crores waste-to-energy plant on Hardoi road, sources said. The scheme, sources revealed, categorically stresses on door-to-door collection of waste, its proper storage and subsequent transportation.

Lucknow produces around 550 metric tonnes per day (mtpd) of waste which, however, goes unmanageable. But if every thing falls in place as the officials claim, around 300 mtpd of waste would be taken care of by the waste-to-energy treatment plant on Hardoi road. As for the rest 250 mtpd, a new waste-to-compost plant would be established. For this, sources added, land fill sites would be developed.

Similarly, in Agra, a waste-to-compost plant would be established along with arrangements for door-to-door collection, waste storage and its transportation to a land fill site. The plant would cater to around 350 mtpd of waste produced in the city.
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11:37 PM

* Posted by Anjana Papnai,

Dear Gopal,

I do not totally agree with your stated points.

1. If waste left by itself to decay will generate methane, which has got 21 times more global warming potential than CO2 which would otherwise be produced if the waste is incinerated. Therefore, this can be one of the potential CDM project.

2. Dioxin production by modern incineration plants with proper pollution control is estimated to be less than 1% of the total from other sources.

3. Incineration means controlled burning under controlled temperature, to get complete combustion and emissions are allowed to escape after proper treatment for pollutants present.

4. Incineration or Energy from waste plant is a proven technology with successful implementation in countries like Japan. Even in UK, three plants already exist and possibility for more projects because of new landfill regulations.

Only concern I can see is Delhi municipal will have to deal with proper waste segregation plan and adopt integrated waste management system to get the best out of energy from waste plants.

* Posted by Gopal Krishna,

Dear Anjana,

You have got your facts incorrect therefore you have reached manifestly wrong conclusions. My question to you is once the waste is segeregated at source which you have rightly referred to where is the need to incinerate it.

Ratiying the United Nations Environment Program's (UNEP) Stockholm Treaty on persistent organic pollutants (POPs) is at odds with the current policy of promoting dioxin-emitting high heat waste-to-energy technologies because it subsidises and promotes the production of POPs throughout the country. This project is not an "additional" project. The real concern is that incinerator technology intervention in the waste stream distorts waste management for good and gives a very wrong message to the society at large contrary to the cardinal principles of waste management which seeks waste minimisation.

1. Waste cannot be left by itself to decay because it has to be managed as per Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) (Management & Handling) Rules, 2000 and relevant Supreme Court orders. As per Annexure A of Kyoto Protocol, waste incineration is mentioned as a source of green house gases. Do you mean to say that the projects which are sources of green house gases (GHG) qualify as CDM project? In that case, will you please explain as to whether CDM is meant for reducing GHG or for increasing it?

2. Have you looked at the MCD's Waste Master Plan 2021 wherein it is categorically mentions, Incineration of "RDF is often an option when emission standards are lax and RDF is burned in conventional boilers with no special precautions for emissions". According to the MSW Rules, 2000, it is illegal to incinerate chlorinated plastics (like PVC) and wastes chemically treated with any chlorinated disinfectant. In fact the US EPA has in its Dioxin reassessment stated that "dioxin is carcinogenic to humans" and the "risk of getting cancer from dioxin is ten times higher than reported in 1994."

3. Incineration transfers the hazard characteristics of waste from the solid form to air, water and ash. It also releases new toxins through the process of breakdown of existing compounds and the formation of new ones which were previously not present in the original waste stream, besides making others like heavy metals mobile and more leachable. Even the best run incinerators in the world, such as in some European countries, have to deal with very stringent norms and regulations, contaminated filters and ash, besides malfunctions, which make them hugely expensive to operate. For instance, a 2000 tonnes per day municipal waste incinerator in Netherlands, which follows EU norms, has a price tag of USD 600 million, with almost 50% of the cost in pollution control.

4. India does not have standards nor the technical facilities to monitor and analyse dioxin emissions. In fact laboratory and regulatory infrastructures required to monitor dioxin levels and to ensure compliance with requisite legal standards are both costly and complex. For example, fewer than 50 laboratories in the world have been certified by WHO for the analysis of dioxins in human tissue, and the cost of such an analysis ranges from US $1,000 to US $3,000 per sample. The cost of establishing a laboratory for dioxin analysis is estimated at US $1.5-2 million. Even in the wealthiest countries, such costs are barriers to adequate monitoring of incinerator releases, as illustrated by the admitted paucity and uncertainty of relevant data presented in the European Union's dioxin inventories.

5. There are several studies on India that show high levels of dioxins in human milk samples, wildlife and dairy products.

In a study of the Perungudi dumpsite, Chennai Environment Resource Management, London, has clearly certified garbage as most suitable for composting rather than for burn-based technologies. This is the sanest waste management concept but technocentric companies perceive Indian waste as a market for their failed technologies. Waste is a problem that can only be solved by people's participation, not by 'quick fix' technologies.

* Posted by S.A.Alagarsamy,

I admire Gopal krishnas objections are true.carbon credits can not be given to biomass projects like waste disoposal.in fact carbon credits must be given to Renewable Energy projects like Jatropha and Pongamia and Paradise tree plantations which helps ultimately to reduce carbon Emissions.Biomass consumes energy and in true sense it will not qualify in claiming CER s....

* Posted by N C Jana,

Mr Gopal
I think your idea is to ban all biomas & MSW projects from CDM eligibility, as all are source of some green house gases. Please visit some municipality dumping ground like Chembur to realise need of technology/ CDM as your ideas will take out all the biomass ie MSW, Agricultural, forest, animal waste power plant out of list of CDM eligible projects.
From N C Jana

* Posted by Anil Gupta,

A few projects have come up and have produced much news forget about energy, based on the irrational assumptions made by such people/agencies/ firms in the past about segregation. IL & FS must have done some new studies. They did talk to me also and I apprised them about proper & achievable 'segregation" in Delhi. Unfortunately they still went ahead ane recommended incinerattion. Bio Mass/methanation s any day more practical as it adjusts/accomodates inerts which are present in plenty and shall work agaisnt heat avaialble from incineration while shall give a pure methane with inerts getting passed on to residues. Yes inerts are important in methanation also but it tolerates higher inerts than incineration and that is the key.
such projects qualify for CDM and are operating in India and can be visited w/o much costs before startign implementing incineration.

* Posted by Gopal Krishna,

Dear Mr N C Jana,

No one is arguing for "ban on all biomas & MSW projects from CDM eligibility", one is only arguing against the incineration technologies. "The experience of the incineration plant at Timarpur, Delhi and the briquette plant at Bombay support the fact that thermal treatment of municipal solid waste is not feasible, in situations where the waste has a low calorific value. A critical analysis of biological treatment as an option was undertaken for processing of municipal solid waste in Delhi and it has been recommended that composting will be a viable option. Considering the large quantities of waste requiring to be processed, a mechanical composting plant will be needed." Isn't this proposition of Union Ministry of Environment and Forests still valid?.

* Posted by Sujata Kapoor,

Dear Mr Gopal Krishna,

I have been following india's solid waste management policies from quite a long period and I would like to comment only one thing .....the kind of waste India is generating and is in the process of generating needs viable options ....ofcourse most viable option would be to convert into manure but are there many takers of this kind of manure....my experience has been that there are not many takers for manure.....and we need a big marketing effort for that....still with the volume of waste we are talking about need many complex mix and not only composting is going to solve the problem ....Hence maybe with all the problems listed by you...in INDIAN CONTEXT we need incinerator based plants so that we can really solve the problem of solid waste management....plus energy already being in short supply (at least in Delhi) we would welcome any addition to the power position of Delhi....thanks and no hard feeling since this is my personal view ( I happen to live near a land fill site and if you have any better thing to say please try living near land fills...)

* Posted by M Z Siddiqui,

Dear Mr. Gopal Krishna,

After going thru your and other peoples argument it appears to me that you are purposely hoisting half truths to justify your claims. Are you by chance working for the COMPOST LOBBY? Only here you want stop waste to energy to help the compost lobby. I am sure you must have read the Report on state of compost plants in India prepared by the Task Force identified by the Ministry of Urban Developement which found that almost all of the Compost plants are either not working (Majority)and those which are somehow operational are working on a very reduced capacity for the simple reasons that the cmpost produced is too costly and of dubious quality. If the heavy metals, pathogens and toxins which find their way into the MSW reach the food chain thru the compost its consequences would be disastrous to the extent that the 'dioxin' would not be able to match. Another important fact that you have missed is that today adeqately sophisticated technology is available which can stop any pollutant, including dioxin, from being emitted to the atmosphere and these are being adopted the world over.

Actually waste disposal should be a combination of various solutions including composting, waste to energy and landfilling each for the suitable fraction. Any one technology on its own will not be able to address the gigantic problem that we have on hand.

* Posted by Gopal Krishna,

Dear Sujata Kapoor,

Thank for your message based on your experiences. What we are contending in effect addresses your concerns. Given the fact that you live near a landfill does not in any way make it logical even for you to recommend landfills in the sky. Because incineration in effect turns the atmosphere into a landfill which one is sure you would not argue for. If incinerators are adopted all the pollutants which pollute the underground water near landfills will only get airborne and get into the food chain in any case. Isn't this remedy worse than the diease? As to power in Delhi the proposed waste to energy plant is unlikley to generate even that amount of electricity which it will consume in the process. We know that by experience of both Delhi and Lucknow plants. Decentralised waste management is the only soultion. Because we have only one earth after all some people argue for more and more landfills and incinerators as if there is another one in spare.

* Posted by Gopal Krishna,

In the first part of BIOMASS BURNING IS NOT GREEN, Delhi was the focus of attention. In the second part attention has been paid to the goings on across the globe with regard to sane waste management practices. Communities are recognising recycling saves more energy than the incinerator based waste to energy projects produce. Since less energy is used, fewer fossil fuels are used and it reduces greenhouse gas emissions. BURNING BIOMASS IS NOT GREEN-II is at http://www.indiatogether.org/2006/oct/env-burntech.htm


12:55 AM

Indian municipal garbage: How to manage it?

By Gopal Krishna

In India, under the ‘business as usual’ scenario, the total municipal solid waste management (MSW) generation within the next five decades would multiply five times the present level of about 50 million tonnes per day.

Against such a backdrop, issues ranging from centralised waste management, decentralised waste management, regional waste management, resource generation and recovery, sanitary landfill to carbon credits for MSW projects were debated at a national workshop on Municipal Solid Waste Management (MSW): Sharing of experiences and lessons learnt, organised on July 13 and 14, 2005.

The workshop was co-sponsored by Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO), Union Ministry of Urban Development & Poverty Alleviation USAEP, Water Sanitation Program (World Bank) and was held at India International Centre (IIC) Annexure, New Delhi. International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) and Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) also supported this workshop.

Finance and consultancy for waste management was the central theme of the workshop in the context of increasing population, consumerism, resource constraints and the directions from the Indian Supreme Court and the High Courts.

Perhaps taking note of the fact that the current waste management practices adversely affect human habitat, panelists such as N.C. Vasuki, President of International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) and CEO, Delaware Solid Waste Authority, USA, P.U. Asnani, USAEP and others shared their wisdom on waste management.

Vasuki said India and China are biggest dioxins emitters. Therefore, before embarking on incinerator projects in India, there must be proper pollution control and regulation in place. He is an ardent advocate of thermal treatment process for waste management. He is known for misleading people with his talk of multiple benefits by using thermal technologies, which according to him leads to reduction in landfill volume, energy recovery by displacing fossil fuels, recovery of metals, and some reduction in global-warming gases. These claims of Vasuki are factually incorrect.

He refers to European waste policy as non-pragmatic and is generally dismissive about "Polluter Pays” principle. He makes fun of this policy, which makes the companies that manufacture, and sell products as the "polluters," not the "consumers" who purchase the products and the EU decree that polluters should pay to collect and recycle all the packaging materials. He feels something is wrong with EU system of thought insisting that placing organics in landfills was not acceptable and its directive about landfilling of materials containing more than 5% carbon would not be allowed after 2005.

Vasuki will have the Indian policy-makers and citizens believe that the American waste policy is more pragmatic and less dependent on the government.

Asnani who was introduced as the Patron, Municipal Solid Waste Association of India, advocates pelletisation and seems convinced about its appropriateness. He has articulated his views on it at a seminar on ‘Urban waste management -- Options for future’ which was organised by Consultancy Development Centre (CDC) and Sycom Consultancy Services and sponsored by Thermax, Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources (MNES) and Global Trust Bank. Asnani is a member, Technology Advisory Group (TAG), Union Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India. He has divided the country into three parts for SWM solutions:

1. Cities with population of 1 million: According to him, these can go for state-of-the-art technology provided it is approved by the TAG.
2. Corporations and municipalities with a population of 1/2 million: These should go for simplest technology.
3. Nagar Panchayats: These should go for simplest technology.

At the HUDCO workshop on July 13, the session on ‘Providing nation-wide infrastructure for SWM’ was chaired by Dr Indrani Chndrasekharan, Director, Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF). The panelists were P.U. Asnani, United States–Asia Environment Partnership (USAEP) {USAID}, Dr A.B. Akolkar, Additional Director, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and member, Supreme Court Committee on Waste to Energy, H. Lanier Hickman, former Executive Director, Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), USA.

Hickman. who is a long time advocate of waste to energy. is the author of books like American Alchemy: The History of Solid Waste Management in the United States and Principles of Integrated Solid Waste Management. He said, “I do not agree with the statement that Indian waste is different. Trash everywhere is trash and if it can be managed at other places it can be managed here.” When it was pointed out to him that all the reports from government and the statistics about waste composition in India showed that Indian waste has low calorific value which led to the failure of the Timarpur waste to energy plant, he had no answers.

Hickman suggested top-down public policy for waste management.
When the report ‘Resources up in Flames’ of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), Washington was cited to respond to his support for incinerators, Hickman agreed that for last 15 years there has been no new incinerator in the USA but the old ones are functioning efficiently with pollution control equipment.

The session on “Initiatives in Indian mega metro cities” had panelists like Ravi Dass, Director-in-Chief, Conservation & Sanitation Engineering Department, Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), Subhash Chandra, Special Commissioner, Bangalore Mahanagar Palike, Anil Mukim, Municipal Commissioner, Ahmedabad, Pankaj Joshi, Municipal Commissioner, Surat, Vivek Agarwal, CDC, Jaipur and S. Dasgupta, WSP.

Dass gave an outline of how waste is being managed in Delhi. He referred to privatisation of collection and transportation for which agreement has been signed on January 31, 2005, with three companies for six out of the 12 zones of MCD. Quoting Delhi Waste Master Plan Report of 2004, he said MCD has identified processing and treatment technologies for MSW such as composting, pelletisation and biomethanation. What he does not mention is that in the preparation of the Delhi Waste Master Plan Report, it did not consult any civil society group from India.

MCD has commissioned first two pilot facilities based on Methanation and RDF with daily capacities of 50 and 100 tonnes, respectively, through a renewed call for proposals from the private sector and rigorous scrutiny. MCD has signed agreement with IL&FS unmindful of the environment, health and safety of the residents of Delhi, which RDF technology will jeopardise.

MCD is either pretending ignorance about incinerators (including burning of RDF system) being net energy losers when the embodied energy of the materials burned is accounted for or it has been completely misled by some vested interests. MCD refuses to understand that recycling of waste materials saves three to five times the amount of energy, as incinerating these same materials would generate.

For every tonne of material destroyed by waste incineration, many more tonnes of raw materials must be mined, extracted, processed, or distributed to manufacture new products to take its place.

Several reports of the Government has sought exclusion of RDF, waste pelletisation and waste incineration from qualifying as renewable or sources of renewable energy, fuel, energy programmes, and other related programs, regulations, legislation, and policies because of its contaminating effect.

The reports of Planning Commission and Union Urban Development Ministry illustrate the need for non-burn technologies like composting given the fact that we are biomass deficit.

MCD has done well to revamp the operation of MCD composting plant in Okhla at a capacity of 200 tonnes per day (tpd). It is planning a new composting plant with a capacity of 600 tpd. Private operators are operating the Bhalaswa Compost plant at 500 tpd.

The operation of New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) compost plant is happening with 200 tpd after discussion with MCD and NDMC. A proposal to set up a compost plant in Okhla has been put forth to NMDC by the IL&FS. The project will be implemented through Public Private Partnership. The plant will solve NDMC's problem of cutting down the load from sanitary landfill sites. NDMC pays Rs 2 crore annually to use MCD's sanitary landfill sites for disposal of garbage in its area. MCD is providing financial and technical support for two local composting projects implemented by Resident Welfare Associations (RWA) and NGOs at neighborhood level.

Dass said MCD is commissioning new sanitary landfills at Jaithpur, Narela Bawana Road and Bhatti Mines on ‘Design, build and operate’ basis. MCD is working on the closure of existing three landfills and development of restoration projects.

Dass misled the workshop about MCD's proposal to build a landfill at Bhatti Mines by not informing that there is risk of contamination of water resources from leachate emissions. Also it lies in the vicinity of sensitive locations like Asola Wild Life sanctuary and two villages, Sanjay Nagr and Balbir Nagar.

Dass said MCD has conducted workshops on segregation of waste. The fact is MCD has failed to encourage 'segregation at source' mandatory as per MSW Rules, 2000.
Dass claimed that MCD has taken initiatives to earn carbon credits through Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of Kyoto Protocol. It is dealing with Landfill Gas quantification from three landfill sites, the project note has been submitted to the World Bank and feasibility study funding approved with World Bank work started. MCD feels that trading of carbon credits would benefit approximately Rs 400 crore in next 20 years. The private sector can set up CDM capturing facilities.

What is astounding is the fact that the when the world over use of incineration and combustion of RDF is discouraged due to its polluting nature, MCD is encouraging incineration technology. The claim of carbon credits is fraudulent because waste incineration is greenhouse gas emitter as per Kyoto Protocol and therefore it cannot qualify as a CDM project.

Deepak Sanan of WSP chaired the session on “State Government Initiatives”, with panelists like A.K. Jain, IAS, All India Institute of Local Self Government (AIILSG), Ramkumar, Adviser (Environment and Energy), Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Finance Corporation (KUIDFC), Mahesh Singh, Joint Secretary, Urban Development, Gujarat Government.

On July 14, D.K. Mittal, CEO, Special Infrastructure Projects, Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (IL&FS) and member, Supreme Court Committee on Waste to Energy with Dr A.K. Saxena, National Productivity Council as the co-chair, chaired the session on “Public-private Partnership and Business Opportunities”. The panelists were Anjan Das, Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) & S.R. Maley of Excel Industries.

T. Prabhakaran, Director, Finance, HUDCO, chaired the session on “Resource Generation and Financing”. The panelists were Dr Vivek Kumar, The Energy Resources Institute (TERI), S.N. Jain of MGM International, S. Mukherjee of Environment Information Centre and IL& FS Ecosmart India Limited.
The concluding session was chaired by Dr Dilip Biswas, former chairperson, Central Pollution Control Board and Chairman, Supreme Court Committee on Waste to Energy. The panelists included A.K. Jain, AIILSG, Prof Manoj Datta, N.C. Vasuki, Dr N.B. Majumdar, Dr A.K. Saxena, H. Lanier Hickman and others.

A.K. Jain sought the attention of the participants towards the financial reforms under way for local bodies, which would provide fiscal power to them. Referring to examples from Gujarat, Maharashtra and Karnataka, he stressed the need for minimisation of waste, recycling of waste for employment generation, community contracting, micro-planning of the city and the division of the city between large waste generators and small waste generators. He called for use of CDM for composting.

Prof Manoj Datta sought one week training at all levels from workers to officers on composting and waste to energy to ascertain whether it is possible with 40-45% inert in the waste.

Majumadar referred to composting experiments in India since 1934. He stressed the need for quality assurance and grading of compost.

With regard to incinerators, one participant highlighted the inconsistency between different Union Ministries because Ministry of Non-conventional Energy Sources, MoEF and Ministry of Science and Technology promote it while Ministry of Commerce opposes its inclusion in the WTO list of Environmental Goods and Services.

It was pointed out to the workshop in the presence of the Chairman, Supreme Court Committee on Waste to Energy that D.K. Mittal is an interested party in the waste to energy project in Delhi therefore his membership to the Supreme Court Committee on Waste to Energy constituted by Union Ministry of Non-conventional Energy Sources (MNES) raises the issue of conflict of interest.

The statement of concern with regard to burn technologies was also made after Dr Biswas asked the workshop to be informed about the environment and health concerns emerging from it.

Dr Biswas acknowledged that environmental groups have apprised him of their concerns regarding incinerator with him. He wondered as to what comes first -- the education or legislation -- with regard to waste management. He underlined the need for a carrot and stick policy to deal with the problem.

There is no substitute to waste minimisation, waste segregation, composting and recycling, but mere lip service to these issues was deemed sufficient.

Sadly, these are not pondered over at such workshops with the seriousness they deserve.

12:56 AM

Posted By Date View 1. KS Dilip 21/06/2006

Can Mr Gopal Krishna please advise which is the best technology to handle and manage municipal solid waste? RDF technology is bad;.landfill is bad.... What else to do to manage the waste?

2. Chintamani Patwardhan 28/05/2006

We are manufacturers of fluxes from Pune and are using waste material of thermal power plants as a source of raw materials. Industries should be encouraged in similar way to reuse the waste material. Landfilling should be the last option for waste disposal.

3. Navin Chopra 02/05/2006 I had spoken to Ravi Dass of MCD regarding decentralised composting units. The costs would be paid from the savings accrued from reduced transportation costs. His reply was that MCD does not have sufficient money. Why are people like him allowed to continue?

1:01 AM

Posted By Date
1. Mallesh Kota 05/06/2007 Based on my knowledge on WTE incineration, I can say that modern incinderators are no way near to the old traditional ones. Modern incinerators do not emit any dioxins and can be treated very well before the ash is sent to brick factory. This has no toxic substances.
2. S. Srinivasan 12/03/2006 It is an interesting article. However, we have two fundamental issues to handle in India:

1. Energy security with environmental friendly technologies which remove our dependence on imports (oil & gas) and also reduce use of coal.

2. Managing the waste produced throughout the country.

Today this may not be the right type of plant. But India has to develop an indigenous technology which converts waste to energy in an environmental friendly way. If we succeed, we would give our future generation a very reliable source of energy.

1:01 AM

Posted By Date
1. Mallesh Kota 05/06/2007 Based on my knowledge on WTE incineration, I can say that modern incinderators are no way near to the old traditional ones. Modern incinerators do not emit any dioxins and can be treated very well before the ash is sent to brick factory. This has no toxic substances.
2. S. Srinivasan 12/03/2006 It is an interesting article. However, we have two fundamental issues to handle in India:

1. Energy security with environmental friendly technologies which remove our dependence on imports (oil & gas) and also reduce use of coal.

2. Managing the waste produced throughout the country.

Today this may not be the right type of plant. But India has to develop an indigenous technology which converts waste to energy in an environmental friendly way. If we succeed, we would give our future generation a very reliable source of energy.

Refuse Incinerator-cum-Power Generation Plant installed by Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources in March 1985 remained inoperative since its installation. The Ministry failed to utilise or dispose off the inoperative plant and incurred an expenditure of Rs 1.25 crore on maintenance and insurance of the plant.

The failure to utilise a Refuse Incinerator-cum-Power Generation plant at Timarpur, Delhi, imported at a cost of Rs 20 crore, was pointed out in Paragraph No.2.1 of the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India - Union Government (Scientific Departments) for the year ended 31 March 1990; (No.2 of 1991). The Cabinet decided in July 1990 to wind up the project.
In September 1991, Cabinet directed MNES to explore alternative use of plant

MNES (Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources) attributed reason for non-utilisation to failure of the Danish supplier to demonstrate successful operation and referred the matter to an Arbitration Tribunal at London in May 1991. The Tribunal gave its award during 1993 in favour of the supplier. In the meantime, based on a proposal from MNES, Cabinet directed MNES in September 1991 to explore the possibilities of alternative use of the plant.

M/s Zen Global Finance Limited, a private entrepreneur, offered to make the plant re-operational by screening/processing of the incoming garbage as well as carrying out necessary modifications in the plant design at their own cost. Before entering into an agreement with the entrepreneur, MNES considered it necessary to obtain prior commitment of Government of NCT of Delhi with regard to free supply of garbage at the plant site by the MCD (Municipal Corporation of Delhi) and for purchase of power to be generated from the plant by DVB. MNES was to facilitate these memorandums-of-understanding/tie-ups between the entrepreneur and Government of NCT of Delhi before handing over the plant to entrepreneur.
MNES has yet to identify entrepreneur to run plant

MNES could not enter into an understanding with MCD/DVB. In the meanwhile, as the identified entrepreneur raised demand for subsidy the Ministry dropped his case for further consideration. MNES decided in February 1999 to make fresh attempts to issue an advertisement on global basis for identifying entrepreneurs to make the plant operational. Final outcome was awaited as of July 1999.
Avoidable expenditure of Rs 1.25 crore was incurred on maintenance and insurance of plant

Meanwhile, an expenditure of Rs 1.00 crore was incurred till March 1998 towards maintenance of the plant. After March 1998, Ministry stopped providing funds for shut down maintenance of the plant pending Internal Finance Division�s concurrence. However as stated by the Ministry in July 1999, the DVB continued to maintain the plant and an amount of Rs 33 lakh had become payable to DVB on this account as of July 1999. In addition, MNES paid a sum of Rs 25.49 lakh on account of insurance, since the award of Tribunal in 1993.

There is a clear failure of MNES to take concrete action to either make alternative use of the plant, or dispose it off. In the bargain, an avoidable expenditure of Rs 1.00 crore on maintenance and Rs 25.49 lakh on insurance was incurred besides the liability to pay Rs 33 lakh to DVB for maintenance beyond March 1998.


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