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Misplaced Claims

Written By Gopal Krishna on Thursday, May 01, 2008 | 9:58 AM

Delhi Campaign for Safe Environment (DCSE)
For a safer food chain


Press Release

Environmental & Citizen Groups Reject Toxic Waste to Energy Plants


Public health disaster on the horizon amid misplaced carbon credit claims


01/5/2008 New Delhi: Dioxins emitting technology-based waste to energy (WTE) projects that are coming up in the residential areas of Timarpur, Okhla (Sukhdev Vihar) and Ghazipur in the Delhi is contrary to even the National Environmental Policy, 2006 and ignores grave public health concerns that have inter-generational health impacts.

At Round Table in Indian Social Institute, environmental researchers and residents of colonies where these projects are sited denounced the proposed plants in the presence of the project proponents and opined that its fraught with disastrous consequences for public health. Delhi Campaign for Safe Environment (DCSE) had organized the meeting.

MCD has announced that it plans to earn carbon credits through Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of Kyoto Protocol from the projects in Timarpur, Okhla (Sukhdev Vihar) and Ghazipur.

The environmental researchers are of the considered opinion that technological intervention of the kind Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) is undertaking to deal with capital’s garbage problem at the behest of Union Ministry of New Renewable Energy (MNRE) would distort municipal waste management beyond repair.

They argued that the claims regarding carbon credits from these proposed projects are manifestly misplaced because as per Annexure A of the Protocol, waste incineration is a green house gas emitter. Also from a purely climate change perspective, composting and bio-methanation technologies are far superior to incineration. In fact composting and recycling both minimize carbon release as well as improve carbon sequestration to some degree.

Despite this a Memorandum of Understanding between MCD and Infrastructure Projects, Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (ILFS) was signed by D K Mittal, the CEO of Timarpur Waste Management Company Pvt. Ltd. (TWMCPL) and Rakesh Mehta, IAS the then Commissioner of MCD. Mehta is Chief Secretary in Delhi Government. Mittal is also a serving IAS officer, besides being the CEO, Special Infrastructure Projects, Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (ILFS). The project got listed before the board on 23 May 2006, and the board sought comments until 21 June, 2006 and the same has since been registered. The ministry of environment is the nodal ministry for CDM and now one its official is the Chairman of the CDM Executive Board that has registered the project.

Senior IAS officers Rakesh Mehta, D K Mittal, A K Gupta, Advisor, MNRE and Rajesh Kumar Shethi, official of Ministry of Environment & CDM Executive Board who are responsible for advocating and registering these polluting technology must answer why the 1990 plant failed in Timarpur, Delhi. MCD’s own Waste Master Plan says that RDF is a polluting technology that is adopted in countries whose environmental standards are lax.

“While mounds of waste may disappear, it will end up creating landfills in the sky. Bureaucratic arrogance and a dubious economic feasibility sans environment concerns is bent upon gifting the capital city with waste-to energy plants based on a technology that has been proven obsolete across the world. Notwithstanding that a replica of historic folly has been turned into a monument at Timarpur, three new monuments will soon be in the making at so and so places. Delhi is getting ready to rid of its enormous but at the cost of creating three mini-Bhopals,” said Dr Sudhirendar Sharma, a former World Bank official and Director, Ecological Foundation.

Gopal Krishna of DCSE said, “The technology that failed is exactly the same technology that is being suggested now. These polluting technologies are being pushed in various disguises. There is a white paper of the ministry that rules out use of incinerators because it has failed. The same paper recommends biological treatment method. The proposed technology has failed a WTE project in Delhi in early 1990s. This is despite the fact that India also lost the case in an international arbitration court. The project proponents were severely reprimanded by the Delhi High Court and the Comptroller General of India too investigated the matter and concluded that Indian waste is not suitable for energy generation.” The court ruled in April 2001 on the plant's failure and had taken issue with the procurement of the incineration plant at a cost of Rs.20 crores saying, "No order should have been placed for procurement of the plant unless its utilities were completely known."

Criticism did not come just from the Delhi High Court alone. 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 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."

"The Okhla Waste-to-Energy Plant is being located inside dozens of densely populated residential colonies. When the policy of the government is to shift or relocate all existing industries whatsoever from the residential areas, Why double standards? This is surely going to have serious health hazards for all the residents for all times to come. There is a lot of resentments and unhappiness because no voice is being raised against this project, which is being projected through the media as an environmentally sustainable project by the stakeholders,” said affected residents like Anil Misra, P K Nayyar, Shahid Hasan, S C Sarin, Air Comdr (Rtd.) S C Mehra and N Aggarwal.besides more than 200 people who have signed a letter opposing the project.

As of April, 2008 the Project Design Documents of the proposed plants the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and MNRE are promoting the proposed a 16 MW WTE plant. The MCD proposes to deliver waste for free and even the New Delhi Municipal Council is joining the bandwagon as well. The project is located within the city across 18 acres of land in Okhla and Timarpur. The construction should have started this very month as per the document submitted to the CDM Executive Board. The proposed project includes two MSW processing plants at Okhla and Timarpur. Besides the Timarpur-Okhla projects, “Unique Waste Processing Company”, a subsidiary of ILFS Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited has floated “East Delhi Waste Processing Company Private Limited” as a special purpose vehicle for incinerating refuse derived fuel (RDF to generate electricity at the Ghazipur site.

“’Energy’ is only one of the several possible products of waste, and also has its own cost, even though it is the only product subsidized by the MNRE. In fact the overall energy balance from Indian municipal waste is negative,” said Ravi Agarwal, Toxics Link.

“Such projects are against the cardinal principles of sane waste management-Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. There is no alternative to waste minimization, waste segregation at source and biological treatment method,” said Dr Shyamala Mani, Programme Director, Centre for Environment Education (CEE). It is important that any effort of integrated waste management should also recognize and include these environmentally safe practices that deserve institutional support. The use of RDF implies burning of mixed waste including plastics and paper, to gain calorific value (up to 3000 kcal) of what is otherwise a low energy mix. (500 kcal). As per the Municipal Waste Handling and Management Rules, the combustion of PVC plastics is banned. In the making of RDF, we see no practical possibility of PVC plastics being segregated (from other plastics) in the waste stream since there is no labeling of such plastics as PVC or non-PVC, nor are PVC plastics picked out separately by waste pickers. In fact they pick out all plastics. (please also see para 6). Ban on the burning of PVC has a sound technical basis, added Agarwal.

Besides persistent organic pollutants (POPs) listed for elimination under the United Nations’s Stockholm Convention on POPs, heavy metals like Mercury are also emitted. POPs like Dioxins and furans are a family of potent endocrine disruptors in miniscule quantities (parts per trillion) and cancer causing that enters the food chain. They can impact whole populations and have inter-generational health impacts, since they pass on from mother to child. Waste incineration is one of the key sources of dioxins worldwide. It is highly dangerous from a public health perspective, added Gopal Krishna.

Even Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Energy wrote: "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 noteworthy that Union Minister of Renewable Energy has already announced 31 such projects in the parliament although Supreme Court 's last order in Writ Petition (Civil) 888 of 1996 based on court’s Waste to Energy Committee's report had vacated stay for 5 Biomethanation Technology based WTE projects. The incinerator based WTE projects in Delhi are in violation of the court order and sets a bad precedent. As a genuine solution, 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. This report has been submitted in the Supreme Court as well. Notably, this report recommends composting as a measure for waste management instead of energy recovery because Indian soil is carbon deficit. But the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy and Urban Development has ignored it.

The participants included project proponents and some journalists.



For details: Gopal Krishna, DCSE E-mail: krishnagreen@gmail.com, Mb: 98180896609

Dr Sudhirendar Sharma, EF, 9868384744

Ravi Agarwal, TL, 011-24328006

Dr Syamala Mani, CEE, 9811428447
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