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Written By krishna on Wednesday, April 27, 2011 | 1:48 AM
Okhla Anti-Incinerator Committee
Jindal Ecopolis Warned About CPCB Clearance For Toxic Burner
NEW DELHI, Apr 27 - The first technical review of the controversial “waste-to-energy” incinerator being built by Jindal Ecopolis at Okhla ended with a warning that the plant would not get operational clearance until the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) was fully satisfied on safety and regulatory compliance.
The meeting was the result of long years of protest by the communities around Okhla and assurances to re-examine the project by Minister for Environment and Forests (MoEF) Jairam Ramesh.
Held on Tuesday, April 26, the review was attended by technical experts from the CPCB led by its chairman Prof. S.P. Gautam, the CEO of Jindal Ecopolis, Allard Nooyi, experts from the Indian Institue of Technology – Delhi, the German consultant GTZ and those nominated by the Okhla residents, Ravi Agarwal of Toxics Link and Anant Trivedi, resident of Ishwar Nagar and technologist.
It was clear that Jindals Ecopolis, which has been claiming that it had “all permits in place,” had not acquired technology clearance from CPCB which is mandatory under Indian law, and which should have been received before the project had commenced.
Earlier, Minister Ramesh had publicly pointed out this serious anomaly in the project.
It was also placed on record that there has been no valid public consultation on the Okhla waste-to-energy project despite claims to the contrary - a point noted by Mr. Ramesh in a letter to Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, dated April 1, 2011.
Experts at the meeting expressed severe reservations about the proposed technology. It was emphasized that the project will have to satisfy all the criteria before it could become operational.
Fears were expressed about changes made to the design of the project from the one proposed earlier and lack of independent evaluation of the technologies being used.
Disposal of hazardous fly ash, and the spread of contaminants like dioxin and furans as well as mercury and other heavy metals were other apprehensions voiced by the assembled experts.
The meeting concluded with a request that Jindal Ecopolis provide to the committee detailed technical aspects proposed to be used so that further evaluation can be made on technology that is yet to be proven in India.
The meeting validated the serious concerns expressed by the Okhla communities about the safety of the technology being used, which is very hazardous and cannot be assumed to be safe, as claimed by the company.
Okhla communities falling within a two kilometer radius of the plant and protesting include those from New Friends Colony, Sukhdev Vihar, Jasola Vihar, Sarita Vihar, Kalkaji and Jamia Nagar.
Chandra Rajan Arora, General Secretary, RWA of New Friends Colony, D-Block. Mobile 9711918001
Arif Khan, General Secretary, Haji Colony RWA . Mobile: 9891519844
Anant Trivedi, RWA member, Ishwar Nagar.
Vanya Joshi, Coordinator, Okhla Anti-Incineration Committee - 9873980694
Asha Arora, Coordinator, Okhla Anti-incineration Committee. Mobile-9711408421 .
Padma Agarwal Gen. Secy RWA Jasola Vihar - 9312212419
Praveen Shrivastava, RWA, Sarita Vihar - 9871039616
S. Khurana, Vice President Sukhdev Vihar RWA - 9810218150
The burning issue of waste
Yesterday, when I opened my doors and windows to let in some fresh air, all I let in was smoke. From the balcony, I saw the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) sweeper had lit a bonfire of fallen leaves on the road. “Put that out!” I shouted, “why don’t you throw garbage into the MCD dump instead?” The sweeper replied: “look at this huge heap — how do you expect me to cart it all the way to the dump?” He said that not just him, but all the sweepers in the colony burned leaves. “It’s the most convenient way to get rid of them!” he said. Poking into the noxious bonfire, I also found plastic bags, bits of rubber and other unmentionables smouldering within. “Do you know how harmful burning all this is?” I asked. The sweeper shrugged: “but what can people like me do, faced as we are with so many leaves! Maybe you should first tell the trees to stop shedding so many…”
A little digging on the internet showed me exactly how harmful the smoke from burning waste is. It contains a deadly cocktail of allergens, carbon monoxide and Benzopyrene (a significant component of cigarette smoke known to cause cancer in animals). Moreover, fallen leaves contain high levels of moisture, so they burn slowly. This generates a considerable amount of airborne dust, soot, ash and other tiny solid particles. These particulates, when inhaled, can cause problems ranging from coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath to chest pain and sometimes long-term respiratory problems. And as many of us have discovered to our own detriment in this season, breathing in leaf smoke also irritates the eyes, nose and throat.
Imagine my concern when I learnt that the Delhi government is planning to take the burning of waste to a new level by setting up plants in Ghazipur, Timarpur and Okhla that convert municipal solid waste (MSW) to energy, using incineration technology. The proposal is to first compress waste into bricks, burn it and then harness the energy generated. According to Toxicswatch-Alliance, incinerator technology is being discouraged world over as it’s one of the biggest sources of dioxins — toxic chemicals that accumulate in the food chain, mainly in the fatty tissue of animals. Scientists say dioxins can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer. Not surprisingly, Waste to Energy generation is falling out of favour the world over: the European Parliament as well as UN’s Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants seeks elimination of such technologies. Waste Incineration is also listed as a source of green house gas emissions by UN’s Kyoto Protocol.
“A technology that has failed and has been discontinued the world over, is being promoted here,” says Asha Arora, who lives in Sukhdev Vihar barely 30 meters from the proposed incinerator plant. The plant is supposed to work on a technology that will contain the toxins emitted during incineration within it, but the 1.5 million-odd people who live around the proposed plant are still at risk. The residents, along with NGOs, filed a public interest litigation (PIL) against the plant two years ago, but fear they’re fighting a losing battle not just with bureaucratic short-sightedness, but with waste incineration technology itself.
Reducing the waste we create and finding sustainable ways to manage our growing mountains of waste are tough tasks. But as I shut my doors and windows to keep out the acrid smoke coming out from the bonfire outside, it was evident that the government and citizens alike have to deal with this burning issue before it burns us all.