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Apex court to hear MNRE's act of contempt

Written By BiharWatch on Sunday, July 27, 2008 | 10:44 AM

Supreme Court favours source segregation and biomethanation technology

Municipal waste case is scheduled for hearing on July 28, 2008. Earlier, on May 15, 2007, the Supreme Court permitted the Union ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE) to subsidise five pilot waste-to-energy plants. Vilas Mutemwar, Union Minister of Renewable Energy has already announced 31 such projects in the parliament although Supreme Court 's last order based on its Waste to Energy Committee's report had vacated stay for only 5 such projects that too with Biomethanation Technology. If Delhi incinerator based WTE projects succeed then it would set a precedent for all of India and South Asia.

Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd. (ILFS) claims to have the experience in Waste to Energy Projects in Delhi, UP, Rajasthan, Maharastra. The Delhi projects are proposed in residential areas.

The Municipal Waste Management case ( W.P. (C ) No. 888/1996) came up for hearing in the Supreme Court of India on 15/5/2007.

The case dealt municipal waste to energy projects and its failures and the role of Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) . The Ministry has been implementing a national programme on energy recovery from urban and industrial waste, to promote new technologies such as bio-methanation, pyrolysis/gasification and combustion for the processing and disposal of waste.

In the context of widespread concern about global warming, the order is quite significant since it does not allow waste incineration. As per the Kyoto Protocol, waste incineration is a green house gas emitter and India is a signatory to it. Upon hearing the application of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, the court has passed its order wherein it has referred to the findings of the Committee of Experts on Waste to Energy saying, "it is desirable to have solid waste segregated at source, which is also required as per the MSW Rules, 2000."

Unmindful of these mandatory requirements and oblivious of the composition of Indian waste, which has a low calorific value and is hence unsuitable for electricity-generation, MNRE had for quite a long time experimented with incineration technologies despite consistent failures against the cardinal principles of waste management at considerable public cost.

The 15 May, 2007 order "permit (s) Ministry of Non-conventional Energy Sources (MNES) to go ahead for the time being with 5 pilot projects chosen by them" but it is noteworthy that this refers specifically to bio-methanation technology. Efforts are already on by the Ministry to misinterpret the order to include incinerator projects to push the Mumbai, Delhi and other projects.

In the light of the most recent Supreme Court order, one feels that MNRE should ideally withdraw or modify its letter dated 25.07.2005 written to Chief Secretaries of State Governments Administrators of Union Territories Heads of State Nodal Agencies Municipal Corporations/ Urban Local Bodies on the subject of "Accelerated Programme on Energy Recovery from Urban Wastes- Sanction for the Year 2005-06" with copies to Ministry of Urban Affairs & Poverty Alleviation, Ministry of Environment & Forests, Development of Science & Technology Secretary, Planning Commission, IREDA and other Financial Institutions/Banks R&D Institutions, Consultants/Consultancy Organisations and Business/Industry Associations pledging support for combustion technologies among others.

Sadly, the petitioner's objection to providing support (subsidy) to waste to energy projects was not deemed justified by the court.

P.S: The urban solid waste is generated in large quantities (0.4 – 0.6 kg per capita per day depending on the size of the city). The Class I cities (299) identified in a study together generate around 64,000 tons per day of MSW. MNRE is least concerned about its management, its entire focus is on energy generation.
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