Waste Matters and Janwani co-hosted a seminar on “Waste to Energy: Is incineration of city garbage a good idea?” on 29th November wherein Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) official outlined the current status of waste management in the city.
I was invited to witness the waste pickers struggle for health insurance cover provided by the Pune Municipal Corporation, to undertake a field visit to the city’s landfill and to give a talk on the two RDF based waste to energy projects that is coming up in the city. Laxmi Narayan from Waste Matters, a city-based environmental organization which is associated with the Kagad, Kaach, Patra Kashtakari Panchayat (KKPKP), a trade union of waste pickers facilitated the my engagements along with Poornima Chikarmane.
I attended the peaceful protest organized by KKPKP on November 28, 2008 that was demanding that health insurance claimants should get their due as early as possible, and the New India Assurance (NIA) to re-open all the claims summarily rejected since 2007.
Wastepickers are self-employed workers, who earn their livelihoods from salvaging recyclable paper, plastic, metal and grass scrap from garbage. They have their own occupational hazards and it was for them that the KKPKP was made the holder of the Jan Arogya Policy for around 5,000 wastepickers since January 2003. The premium for the policy is paid by the PMC, from its annual Solid Waste Management budget.
PMC is the only municipal body in the country which has been proactive about protecting its wastepickers. It may be noted that the Jan Arogya Policy is a social insurance scheme, which gives cheap medical insurance to the poorer section of the society.
The sum insured per person is restricted to Rs 5,000 but, since 2007, more than 50 per cent of such claims by ragpickers have been rejected due to delayed submission'. "We, along with PMC, will take the matter ahead and ask the NIA to speed up the process and grant the claims for pending cases.
Baba Adhav, a legendry activist who was present at the rally, urged Sanjiv Sood, NIA divisional manager, to look into the matter and clear the pending cases. The KKPKP has vowed to continue with its demands for the wastepickers, till justice comes about.
On the morning of November 29, four member team comprising of myself, Ranjit Gadgil, Sameer, one PMC official and a volunteer of KKPKP visited the Urali Devachi dumping ground to take stock of the situation wherein villagers are protesting against the dumping of waste. Pune city dumps more than 1,000 tonnes of garbage each day in the village of Urali-Devachi. We witnessed and heard the narratives about the leachates contamination, unfit and unsafe water. The air was thick with smoke from burning garbage. The residents of the village have taken the PMC to the High Court for the violation of relevant environmental rules.
I witnessed two plants of SELCO company and Hanjer Biotech Energies at the landfill site. The former was under construction and the placard on the gate of the latter read “the company is closed”.
I was informed that segregation of solid waste in Urali-Devachi has started. PMC has already received a grant of Rs 24 crore from the Union government for ensuring the organic wastes are treated.
In the evening of November 29, there was Panel Discussion wherein Sanskriti Menon of Centre for Environment Education introduced us to the audience.
I spoke on “Environmental, economic, political implications of Waste to Energy (WtE) projects”. I drew upon the policy context of the proposed plants and how they are following the public health disaster path that has been undertaken by the Hyderabad Municipal Corporation in the name of Carbon Trade unmindful of Persistent Organic Pollutants. I referred to the upcoming Global Day of Action.
Ashok Shreenivas of Prayas, a voluntary organisation spoke about “Energy & Efficiency Implications of WtE”.
Another Panelist, Sanjeev Wawre, Ghole road ward medical officer and also a part of the civic body's solid waste management said, "All ward officers have been asked to look for land, measuring 2,000 to 5,000 sq.ft for setting up bio-methanisation or OWC plants. Already, a bio-methanisation plant is under construction at the Ghole road ward office. The plant will cost Rs 30 lakh and is expected to process five metric tonne garbage daily”. He added that the plants at ward office levels will be set up according to the type, quality and quantity of garbage collected. "These ward-level plants are expected to process about 2 to 5 metric tonne garbage daily. In total, the civic body expects to utilise Rs 10 crore for setting up these 14 plants". Wawre said the Mundhwa plant, where engineers are working to set up a bio-methanisation plant, is expected to process 75 to 100 metric tonne garbage daily. "The city generates 1,200 to 1,300 metric tonne waste, of which 51 to 55 per cent is dry waste. Decentralisation of garbage collection and processing would reduce the burden on the Urali Devachi dumping ground."
Prior to the panel discussion, I had an hour long conversation with Wawre wherein he revealed that the central government’s fiscal measures and incentives does not leave much room for the Municipal Corporation to act in autonomous manner. I told him that both the waste to energy plants of SELCO company and Hanjer Biotech Energies are RDF plants and would ruin the waste management and public health of the city beyond repair. SECLO’s plant in Andhra Pradesh has caused lot of environmental health problems and Hanjer’s project in Agra has been purposefully stopped.
There were few experts from Sweden who narrated how waste incineration based energy generation amid stringent pollution control measures has benefited their country. I responded saying that while European Union in general is opposed to waste incineration policy, it is possible that some corporations have prevailed upon the Swedish government to undertake the incineration path.
Both myself and energy expert Ashok Sreenivas warned against the incineration of garbage. "The refuse-derived fuel (RDF) is a failed technology and Pune should not go for it. RDF plants are not viable. "The city's RDF potential is 10 MW while the shortage of power faced by the city is about 100 MW. Besides, there are other problems of pollution and large amount of subsidies required for setting up these projects.
Ranjit Gadgil spoke about the irony of decentralization and centralization schemes working simultaneously in the city with regard to waste management.
I referred to the current practice of PMC dumping Pune garbage at the Urali garbage. A massive two lakh metric tonnes of rubbish has accumulated at the site spreading over 63 acres. The Urali site is full to its capacity, and so far, the PMC had no alternatives but to make continuous improvements here. To shift the burden from the Urali site, the municipal corporation has been in a process of identify four different depot locations around the city. But oppositions by local residents at these sites have marred the efforts. Now the PMC has adopted a carrot and stick policy. Villagers are being cajoled and lured by offering them piped water, medical facility etc and police force is being used to ensure ongoing dumping of waste.
Adjoining urban local bodies Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation generates 440 MT of municipal waste per day and Pune Cantonment Board generates 30 MT of municipal waste per day. Both the places found mention in our deliberations.
Bangladesh High Court stays ship breaking M.T. Enterprise
Note: It would be interesting to see the report by the Department of Environment, Bangladesh. It appears that everything depends on this report. The case seems to be following the path opf Blue Lady litigation. The courts in India and Bangladesh have a habit of relying on even unreliable reports submitted by the environment departnments. Is it possible to submit an independent report so that it presents a contrast in the event of the environment Dept. attempting to greenwash the industry?
High Court stays ship breaking M.T. Enterprise
After hearing three experts on the potential hazards of unregulated breaking of M.T. Enterprise that contains extremely dangerous substances like Asbestos, a Division Bench of the High Court Division comprising Mr. Justice Md. Iman Ali and Mr. Justice Md. Ashfaqul Islam, has again restrained the imported from continuing with any work with regard to the ship till 15 December, 2008. The order came upon hearing of a Writ Petition filed by Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) challenging the NoC given the Department of Shipping to the import of the ship although the said department refused to give NoC to two other Greenpeace listed ships namely S.S. Norway and M. T. Enterprise.
During the hearing the court felt the necessity of hearing experts on hazards in ship breaking. Upon direction from the court, three experts namely Dr. Md. Aftab Uddin from the Department of Bio-Chemistry and Molecular Biology, Dr. Md. Musharraf Ashraf from the Department of Shipping and Engineer Iftekhar Enayetullah from the Waste Concern appraised the Court in its chamber on various issues relating ship breaking. They experts gave their opinion on effects of dealing with metals contained in the ship that is brought for breaking. There was a consensus of opinion of 3 experts that any amount of hazardous material to which the experts are exposed if no protection is accorded and the spillage of hazardous materials into the soil and in the air can have immediate and long term effects. It was also admitted that there was no supervision from any ministry on the breaking operation and no clearance was obtained from the Department of Environment.
In the above circumstances, the Court issued a rule upon the Department of Environment to show cause as to why they shall not be directed as to the number of ship breaking yards and projects are being operated within the territory of Bangladesh without any clearance from the DoE and as to why they shall not be directed to take measures against those who are operating without such clearance.
The Department of Environment has also been directed to submit a report by 14 December, 2008 as to whether not the ship breaking that has taken place had any precautionary measures in regard to the safety of the person working on the ship and with regard to any facility bearing in mind the responsibility of the department to protect the environment.
Pending hearing of the rule, the Court has further restrained the importer of the ship M/S Madina Enterprise from undertaking any further work with regard to the ship till 15 December, 2008 when the matter shall be taken up for further order.
In this writ petition, two separate benches of the High Court division earlier granted stay and injunction on two occasions that were subsequently vacated by the Chamber judge of the Appellate Division and then the Appellate Division itself. Then the matter was taken up for hearing and on hearing both the parties and their experts this order of injunction has been given.