Delhi's Waste Management Under Corporate Control?
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)chairman Professor SP Gautam was asked by Union Environment Minister on 31st March, 2011 to probe the irregularities committed by by Timarpur-Okhla Municipal Solid Waste Management Company Pvt. Ltd (TOWMCL), 100 % subsidiary of O P Jindal Group’s Jindal ITF Urban Infrastructure Ltd. Environmental groups, waste pickers and residents await the outcome of the probe.
The CPCB Chairman must take note of Union Environment Ministry's White Paper which recommends against such technologies and argues in favour of biological treatment methods.
Union Environment Minister had asked Bharat Bhushan, Director, Union Environment Ministry on 1st April, 2011 to take the submissions of the residents on 2nd April. Residents made their submissions and ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) gave its testimony to the 4 member team led by Bharat Bhushan. TWA shared the Supreme Court's order which has been violated. TWA had met the Minister on the gate of the proposed Okhla's incinerator plant on 31st March, 2011 and had promised to share the court order. TWA shared the order on 1st April in his office in front of the residents and officials and agreed that there has been violation of the order. Environmental groups, waste pickers and residents await the report of Bharat Bhushan's team as well. The team comprised of Dr. A. Senthil Vel, Additional Director, Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), the official who had given environmental clearance to the Timarpur-Okhla Municipal Solid Waste Incinerator Plant. This exercise seems conflict of interest ridden making Environment Ministry's role insincere.
Despite repeated reminders, what else can explain Union Environment Minister's studied silence on the relevant part of the WHITE PAPER ON POLLUTION IN DELHI WITH AN ACTION PLAN, GOVERNMENT OF INDIA, MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT & FORESTS. The relevant paragraph of the White Paper reads "4.1 The NEERI studies show that the treatment of solid waste not reduces the quantity requiring disposal but also reduces its pollution potential thereby preventing its adverse impact on environment. Some treatment methods also yield a product which can be recycled. Thermal treatment methods such as incineration or conversion of waste to briquettes and its subsequent use as fuel are not feasible due to the low heat value of the municipal solid waste in MCD area. The experience of the incineration plant at Timarpur, Delhi and the briquetting 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. NEERI has indicated that vermicomposting is suitable when practised on a small scale only."
"We have asked Jindal Ecopolis to provide the committee with details on the technical issues of the project. They had come prepared with a general description of the plant whereas we were interested in the specific technical points of each step of the process. A list of questions has been made available to them and they are expected to respond to them shortly," said a CPCB official. Such an approach is insufficient. It is sad that residents are being taken for a ride by insincere conversations, engagements and empty gestures by Environment Ministry, CPCB and the Delhi Government.
The mere fact that investments have been made and some construction has happned is not and cannot be an excuse for letting present and future generations to be exposed to persistent organic pollutants and heavy metals that will be emitted from incinerators.
The talk of shifting the plant is also quite hollow because mere shifting of a polluting plant and maintaining the status quo with few technical advice does not make this technology and the plant based on it non-polluting.
It appears that O P Jindal Group is bigger than Union Environment Ministry and Delhi Government in its influence. The Group runs a Law University and knows how to hoodwink environmental laws with impunity. It has unleashed a polluting and obsolete technology with evident potential to cause environmental health crisis in Delhi.
Delhi residents are living in parochial but seemingly blissful ignorance even as five waste management companies, namely, Delhi Waste Management (DWM), ABG Enviro, Metro Waste, Ramky and Delhi MSW Solutions have taken control of their waste.
With the entry of O P Jindal Group and Ramky's proposed waste to energy plant on Narela-Bawana based on incinerator technology, it appears that Delhi's waste management is going to be distorted beyond repair with disastrous consequences for public health.
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