Written By Krishna on Tuesday, March 27, 2012 | 11:28 AM
New Delhi-Protesting against the proposed Ghazipur waste-to-energy incinerator, waste pickers and residents living in the vicinity held a “citizens' hearing” here on Saturday. The session was also attended by environment experts and the social activist from the Capital.
“This is the second in the list of three mega waste-to-energy plants to become operational in Delhi soon. It is proposed that together these plants will incinerate over 8,000 tonnes of waste everyday. Apart from turning the entire city into a toxic gas chamber, these proposals will also displace over 200,000 waste pickers of Delhi,'' said a resident of the area participating in the protest.
“These waste pickers help recycle the same waste to support their livelihoods and in the process protect the environment. The residents of Okhla and the waste picker organisations of Delhi have also been pitched in a similar battle for over three years against the Timarpur-Okhla waste-to-energy project, which has started operating in December 2011,'' he added.
The main concerns raised by people at the meeting opposing the incineration of municipal solid waste were “displacement of waste pickers, pollution by incineration and waste management in Delhi''.
Stating that incineration of waste leads to toxic emissions including dioxins and heavy metals that pose a serious threat to public health and environment, residents here noted that despite the stiff opposition to such projects, the Delhi Government has opted to “force more such projects onto the citizens and poison the city's environment''.
The 1,300 tonnes per day Ghazipur project is clearly the Delhi Government's improper solution to solving the waste crisis, said noted environmentalist Gopal Krishna. “The waste pickers of Delhi and the resident of Ghazipur have decided to fight these proposals not only to protect their livelihood but also the environment of Delhi and the health of its residents,'' he added.
“Delhi (India) is at the forefront of what appears to be the plan for urban solid waste management in developing countries across the world: first the privatisation of the system and later the burning of waste to generate electricity (claimed to be clean and renewable). Incineration used to characterise high-income countries is now being introduced in developing countries but we have to first see if this technology works well for us,'' said Mr. Krishna.
‘Incineration of waste leads to toxic emissions including dioxins and heavy metals'
Bhagalpur may commission a waste-to-energy plant
Activists say similar plants elsewhere in the country are lying defunct
The small municipality of Bhagalpur in Bihar is considering setting up a waste-to-energy plant in the city. On February 19, the city municipal corporation selected one of the proposals submitted to it to manage the city's waste. The proposals were submitted in response to a request sent out by the municipality in December last year.
The proposal under consideration is based on private-public partnership model that promises to generate three megawatts (MW) electricity. Municipal officials say they are “investigating the technology”. Activists are opposing the proposal and cite examples of all defunct waste-to-energy plants in the country.
Bhagalpur generates 200 tonnes of waste daily, which at present is not treated and dumped in and around the city in the open. Mahesh Shah, chief sanitary officer of Bhagalpur Municipal Corporation (BMC), says the proposed project “is a clean and productive way of getting rid of the city garbage”. He explains that with no proper system in place, the city is unhygienic. He says the current proposal, if approved, would be operational after one year.
At the same he adds that he has not heard of such a project anywhere and that there is a need to investigate the proposed technology. The Mumbai-based company has refused to take in bio-medical waste, construction debris and silt dirt from drains, says Shah. “We need a detailed study as the total amount of waste might fall after the removal of construction and bio-medical waste.”
Bhagalpur has a population of 500,000 people and uses up 60 MW electricity. When asked whether the power generated in the proposed plant would be useful to the city, Shah says, “When considering the proposal, we are not focussing on power generation. Our interest lies in waste disposal. The latter is answered in this proposal.
Activists say the project is ill-conceived. Delhi generates 7,000-8,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste and the waste to energy plants in the city, meant to generate approximately 20 MW of electricity, are not operational.
The one at Timarpur in North Delhi has been lying defunct since the 1980s, the plant at Ghazipur in east Delhi is under construction and the one at Okhla in south Delhi, which was to be operational in July 2011, is under litigation. Activist Gopal Krishna of ToxicsWatch Alliance says, “The technology is tried and failed. The Indian garbage has low calorific value and is unfit for energy generation.”
Shah refused to comment on the opposition to waste to energy plants.