NEW DELHI: A fine layer of sooty dust covers the cars that line Sukhdev Vihar's roads. Clothes hung out to dry turn black by evening. A pungent smell of rotting waste permeates the air attracting a host of raptors that would ordinarily be found circling over landfill sites. Residents are having trouble breathing and many are complaining of a sudden spell of breathlessness.
The Okhla waste-to-energy plant - which started operations on January 3 - has triggered multiple problems in colonies like Sukhdev Vihar , Haji Colony, Ishwar Nagar, Jamia Nagar and neighbouring areas, say residents.
"We have been protesting since the project was announced but the government permitted the plant to come up here. Incineration in any form is unhealthy and the plant will eventually be burning up 2,050 MT of municipal solid waste. The plant has already begun to pollute the area," said Asha Arora, a resident of Sukhdev Vihar.
The Jindal Ecopolis project has received the Delhi Pollution Control Committee's nod to operate. Environment secretary Keshav Chandra has said that the plant is carrying out a month-long trial run. However, company sources have said that current operations are actually part of the commissioning process and no official trial is taking place.
"In the past couple of days, about 300 tonnes of waste has been used at the plant. Gradually, the quantity will be increased as incineration will be optimized. This is not a trial run," said sources.
Gopal Krishna, convenor, Toxics Watch Alliance, says that so far none of the waste to energy plants set up in India have worked due to the composition of waste. The Okhla plant, which intends to burn everything, including plastic and e-waste to increase its calorific value, is an even more dangerous proposition.
"If industries have been moved out from residential areas, why has a waste incineration plant been allowed to come up. We were told that it would be a zero-smoke , zero-odour and zero-pollution unit. So far, none of the three promises hold. In fact, the waste that is to be burnt is being stored in an open ground across the road from the plant. The smell and the smoke emanating from the site are nauseating ," he said.
Company sources denied the claims, saying that barely any work was being carried out at the plant right now and hence there was no question of pollution. "Even the waste is directly being brought to the plant premises and emptied into the system ," they said.
A special committee of the Central Pollution Control Board is also looking into the technology being used by Jindal Ecopolis in the project and is expected to submit its report soon.
The committee was set up at the behest of former environment minister Jairam Ramesh who had received several complaints by residents against the project. He had even written to Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit , asking her to reconsider the location of the plant from the middle of a populated residential area to some other remote spot.
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