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Justice still a mirage for Okhla residents

Written By Krishna on Saturday, January 26, 2013 | 1:23 AM

Justice still a mirage for Okhla residents

January 26, 2013 

January 23, 2013 was a sad day for Okhla residents hearing the matter after listing the matter for 27 times since July 8, 2009, Delhi High Court shifted the matter to Justice Swatanter Kumar headed National Green Tribunal in view of the Supreme Court order of August 9, 2012.
The order said that the matter be shifted to the Tribunal with Court records within one week to be listed within one week.   
Residents in the colonies of Okhla have been waiting for High Court to come to their rescue from a heavily polluting hazardous incinerator technology based power plant since 2009. Environmental groups and waste recycling workers have also been protesting against it. This power plant is being operated by Delhi's Timarpur-Okhla Waste Management Co Pvt Ltd (TOWMCL) of M/s Jindal Urban Infrastructure Limited (JUIL), a company of M/s Jindal Saw Group Limited is a controversial carbon trade project that has violated every rule in the rule book.
With this the High Court has shifted the Writ Petition (Civil) NO. 9901/2009 which was filed by the resident’s welfare association (RWA) of Sukhdev Vihar, Okhla against the municipal waste incineration power plant is being operated.
The plant faces bitter opposition from residents, waste pickers and environmental groups. Residential colonies of Sukhdev Vihar, New friends Colony, Maharani Bagh, Haji Colony and Ghaffar Manzil have been agitating against this plant that has been set lawlessly. Adjacent to the plant are major institutions such as the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), Central Road Research Institute (CRRI),  Apollo Hospital, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute and the Holy Family Hospital, besides several schools such as the Dev Samaj Public School.
There have been incessant demonstrations and protest rallies against this project. There is an ongoing campaign against it. The plant that has been built despite protest is 150 m from the residential areas. The area has a bird sanctuary, a university and three hospitals within a radius of 10 kilometres.
All will be adversely affected by toxic fumes of the plant. The idea of waste to energy plants which is based on a tried, tested and failed incineration technology in Okhla. The company claims that the land on which the plant is operating “was transferred on lease by Government of Delhi from this 200 acre piece of land that had been earmarked for waste treatment facilities in Delhi's master plan back in 1920's.”
The Municipal Solid Waste is being delivered by NDMC and MCD at the Okhla Power Plant site. Although it is claimed that “only non Hazardous Municipal Solid Waste will be treated at the facility”, the fact is Delhi’s mixed municipal waste has characteristics of   hazardous waste. MCD, Delhi government and central government has shown unpardonable callousness towards hazardous emissions from municipal incinerators that cause serious environmental and health problems both to people living near them and thousands of kilometres from the source.
In a related development, on December 27, 2013, Subhash Chopra, a Member of Delhi Legislative Assembly wrote separately to Chief Minister of Delhi and Lt. Governor of Delhi, Tejender Khanna demanding inquiry into the toxic fly ash from the Jindal's large plant.
Earlier, opposition party leaders of the BJP had also expressed apprehension over the location of such a plant in a densely populated areas of South Delhi.  “This plant would release various types of harmful gases which will certainly pose serious helath threat to the lives of surrounding residents,” said Vijay Kumar Malhotra, BJP M.P. in a letter dated June 27, 2008 to the Lt. Governor of Delhi, Tejender Khanna.
It has come to light that contrary to the report of the Central Pollution Control Board, Union Minister for Environment & Forests Smt. Jayanthi Natarajan stated in Rajya Sabha informed the Parliament that “as per the Central pollution Control Board, the technology being used by the Waste-to-Energy plant at Okhla is as specified in the Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000.” This is far from the truth.
The Environment Minister had informed the Parliament that “complaints were received against the incineration of municipal waste and its likely harmful effects on the air quality and health of people in the Sukhdev Vihar/Okhla area due to the emissions from Waste-to – Energy plant at Okhla.” She admitted that “on four occasions out of ten, levels of Particulate matter (PM) exceeded the standard of 150 mg/Nm3”. She did not reveal anything about the emissions of Dioxins/furans which remains one of the core concerns.
The company claims that “The facility has been installed with a sophisticated Continuous Emission Monitoring System (CEMS) supplied by Yokogawa Japan, one of the foremost technology suppliers in this field. The system is designed to measure SO2, NOx, CO2, O2 & HCL at chimney & ID Fan outlet. SO, NOx, CO2 is measured by Infra red principle, O2 is by zirconia cell, HCL is measured by using Gas filter co-relation IR based principle.” While this is being done by the company, what is the role of regulators like Delhi Pollution Control Committee and Central Pollution Control Board.
A statement on company website reveals that Timarpur Okhla Waste Power Plant “generates 3 MW energy using the municipal solid waste in Delhi”. What it does not reveal is its human and environmental cost. Her statement issued by Press Information Bureau. 


It is claimed on the company’s website that the waste based power plant is registered as a Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) project with United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) “for earning carbon credits.”
Representatives of GTZ (German Technical Cooperation) led by Dr. Juergen Porst, Senior Advisor have stressed the need for a Disaster Management Plan in the very first meeting of the CPCB'sTechnical Expert Committee, which is annexed to the CPCB'sreport.
But this does not find mention in the recommendations of the report. This finds reference in the minutes of the meeting annexed with the report. It underlines the possibility of disaster from the Timarpur-Okhla Waste to Energy Incinerator Plant, which is situated in a residential area.
It is noteworthy that a hazardous plant in Bhopal's residential area that led to world worst industrial disaster in 1984 also did not have any disaster management plan.
The report apprehended that the information that is submitted to the experts committee of CPCB might be used in the on-going case in the Delhi High Court. It makes a shocking revelation that although High Court has been hearing the case since 2009, the project proponent did not inform the court about gross deviations from the project design plan envisaged in the EIA report.
As per the minutes of the second meeting of the technical experts committee, non-cooperative approach of the senior officials of Timarpur-Okhla Waste to Energy Incinerator Plant was condemned on August 11, 2011. Representatives of GTZ underlined that there was lack of transparency with regard to environmental and health impact on the neighborhood residents. It was also noted that the fugitive emissions and the expected emission of Dioxins and Furans has not been quantified. The characteristic of ash and required standards was not mentioned. Prof. T R Sreekrishnan, Department of Biochemical Engineering and Biotechnology stated that disposal option for incineration instead of bio-methanation proposed for green waste is in violation of what was mentioned in the EIA report.
In the report, Dr A B Akolkar, Director, CPCB emphasized that as per Municipal Solid Waste (Management & Handling) Rules biodegradable wastes to be treated using biological method rather than deriving RDF or by incineration as is being done by Jindal Ecopolis. This clearly demonstrates that the Timarpur-Okhla Waste to Energy Incinerator Plant violates the Municipal Solid Waste (Management & Handling) Rules framed under Environment Protection Act, 1986.
In the Writ Petition (Civil) No. 9901 of 2009 in Delhi High Court, legal officials like Mr A S Chandiok Additional Solicitor General and Standing Counsel for the Delhi Government and for the Delhi Pollution Control Committee, Najmi Waziri has been misleading and misrepresenting facts about waste to energy plants in Andhra Pradesh by saying that Refuse Derived Fuel incineration technology was already in use at Hyderabad and Vijayawada. The fact is that there is no plant in Hyderabad. The plant that became functional as per legal officials now stands defunct is in Shadnagar, Mahboobnagar district of Andhra Pradesh.
On 18th July, 2011, Delhi High Court asked CPCB and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) to conduct a joint inquiry about India’s first waste-to-energy plant and file a report on the allegations that it posed health risks to citizens. “A joint report be submitted by the DPCC and the CPCB after an inquiry of the site of the energy plant about the alleged risks posed to citizens,” ordered a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Sanjiv Khanna, Delhi High Court. This has not been done so far. A bizarre situation has emerged because the arguments for Refuse Derived Fuel incineration technology that was advanced by the law officers is no more relevant because the plant is using an experimental Chinese technology which was never ever mentioned at the time of submitting the project proposal.
The report of the Union Environment & Forests Ministry constituted Technical Experts Evaluation Committee of Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on the Timarpur-Okhla Waste to Energy Incinerator Plant revealed to the Experts Committee in September 2011 that it is using untested and unapproved Chinese incinerator technology in complete violation all laws and environmental clearance of 2007 including its own project design document and environment impact assessment report. Chinese technology provider is from Hangzhou New Century Company Ltd of Hangzhou Boiler Group.
The August 2012 Supreme Court order on National Green Tribunal was authored by Justice Swatanter Kumar on behalf of the three judge bench comprising of Chief Justice of India S H Kapadia, Justice A.K. Patnaik and himself in Writ Petition (C ) No.50 of 1998.  The relevant part of the judgment reads:  
“38. Keeping in view the provisions and scheme of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 (for short the ‘NGT Act’) particularly Sections 14, 29, 30 and 38(5), it can safely be concluded that the environmental issues and matters covered under the NGT Act, Schedule 1 should be instituted and litigated before the National Green Tribunal (for short ‘NGT’). Such approach may be necessary to avoid likelihood of conflict of orders between the High Courts and the NGT. Thus, in unambiguous terms, we direct that all the matters instituted after coming into force of the NGT Act and which are covered under the provisions of the NGT Act and/or in Schedule I to the NGT Act shall stand transferred and can be instituted only before the NGT. This will help in rendering expeditious and specialized justice in the field of environment to all concerned.
39. We find it imperative to place on record a caution for consideration of the courts of competent jurisdiction that the cases filed and pending prior to coming into force of the NGT Act, involving questions of environmental laws and/or relating to any of the seven statutes specified in Schedule I of the NGT Act, should also be dealt with by the specialized tribunal, that is the NGT, created under the provisions of the NGT Act. The Courts may be well advised to direct transfer of such cases to the NGT in its discretion, as it will be in the fitness of administration of justice.”
It is noteworthy that a petition has been filed by the Madhya Pradesh High Court Bar Association challenging the constitutional validity of the National Green Tribunal Act, which excluded the jurisdiction of a High Court to entertain writ petitions on environment and forest related matters. The matter is before the three judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India, Altamas Kabir.  This case raises question that has an impact across the country because certain provisions require judicial review since they take away appellate jurisdiction of the High Courts completely. The Supreme Court Bench has issued notice in the matter.  The petition has prayed for striking down the provisions of Section 14 read with Section 22 of the NGT Act to the extent that they divested the High Courts of their constitutional powers under Articles 226/227 of the Constitution of India.
Unmindful of grave public health and environmental concerns both Congress party led Delhi government and BJP led MCD are promoting such toxic power plants which emit chemicals like Dioxins which were used in US-Vietnam war. Okhla residents waited for the High Court to come to their rescue but so far they have consistently been disappointed. The same Court came to their rescue of the biomedical waste incinerator due to adverse effect on their health in its judgment on January 15, 2013. This judgment was/is quite relevant. It had sealed the fate of the Jindal’s Chinese incinerator which was in question in the Writ Petition (Civil) NO. 9901/2009 on January 23, 2013 but the Court suddenly remembered National Green Tribunal order of the Supreme Court bringing despair to the affected residents.   
(The author is convener ToxicsWatch Alliance)



NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court has ordered that a PIL, seeking closure of waste-to-energy plant near a residential colony here, be sent to National Green Tribunal (NGT) for hearing and subsequent decision.

A bench comprising Chief Justice D Murugesan and Justice V K Jain cited a verdict of the Supreme Court which had said the courts would desist from hearing matters, relating to environmental issues and, rather send all of them to the green panel which came into being in 2010.

"It would be appropriate if the matter is transferred to the tribunal," the bench said.

The PIL, filed in 2009 by Sukhdev Vihar Residents' Welfare Association, has alleged the waste-to-energy plant, generating electricity at Okhla near a colony, burn wastes which releases harmful 'dioxins' into the air.

The citizens, living in the neighbourhood, were falling sick with respiratory and other ailments, it has said and sought its closure also on the ground that it was commercially not viable.

As per the rules, such plants cannot be established near residential areas, it has said.

Earlier, the Delhi government and other concerned authorities had taken the plea that the plant was safe and the state-of-the-art technology had been used and, hence, it did not pose a threat either to the people or the environment.

Moreover, it had provided the government a solution to tackle the ever-increasing piles of waste, being dumped on prime land, polluting groundwater and air, it had submitted.


Delhi High Court orders shifting of biomedical waste 

incinerator from Okhla

Jan 19, 2013

The Delhi High Court has questioned the setting up of waste incineration plants in residential neighbourhoods. It has directed the civic authorities to shift the bio-medical waste incinerator at Okhla in south Delhi to a place outside residential limits following health concerns expressed by residents of the neighbouring locality of Sukhdev Vihar. The residents hope the court verdict will pave the way for shifting another  incinerator in the vicinity, Jindal's waste-to-energy plant, when the court hears their case on January 23.


Falling Ash from Waste to Energy Plant Sparks Anger in Dehli

The residents welfare association (RWA) in Delhi has made written complaints to government and the operator of the Okhlawaste to energy facility complaining that the plant has been emitting thick black smoke and a has covered the Sukhdev Vihar area of the city in ash.

A report by The Times of India said that the RWA has upon discovering the ash local resident went to the plant and insisted that officials accompany them back to the area to see for themselves.

According to the report, Vimal Dev Monga, president of the RWA said: "R K Tomar and Som Vir Singh came from the plant. We took them to a flat in Pocket-A - some 150 metres from the chimneys. About 200 grams of dust had settled on the 4 square metre area."

Residents were reported by the paper to have said: "They first said that there was a problem with the start-up of boiler number two. Then they said the waste being sent by the municipal corporation was wet and contained a lot of dust. They also added that excessive steam was being released. It is immaterial what is causing this situation but it has to be stopped."

In a statement on the incident campaign group ToxicsWatch Alliance claimed that the facility is using untested and unapproved Chinese incinerator technology in complete violation all laws and environmental clearance of 2007 as well as the developer's own project design document and environment impact assessment report.

According to ToxicsWatch the RWA president told the Jindal plant managers that the air had become fouled by thick smoke ever since it began operating with many residents now suffering from respiratory and other ailments.

The situation was claimed to be particular bad in foggy conditions with the smoke and ash from plant failing to disperse and settling in the residential areas.

The facility has proved controversial and has sparked numerous demonstrations since its inception.

The Times of India added that the RWA has written to Jindal ITF Ecopolis, the plant operator, chief minister Sheila Dikshit and the environment department.

South Delhi colony wrapped in dust blanket


Sukhdev Vihar Residents Blame It On Untapped Emissions From Okhla Waste-To-Energy Plant


New Delhi: Sukhdev Vihar residents have once again reported emissions from the Okhla waste-to-energy plant. The RWA has written to Jindal ITF Ecopolis, the plant operator, chief minister Sheila Dikshit and the environment department, complaining that the plant has been emitting black smoke and a thick layer of soot covered the colony on Thursday. 

    Asha Arora, a resident, said it all started around 9.30am: “There was a foul smell and the area turned quite dark.” 
    People then went to the plant and insisted that officials accompany them back to the colony to check. “R K Tomar and Som Vir Singh came from the plant. 
We took them to a flat in Pocket-A—some 150m from the chimneys. About 200 grams of dust had settled on the 4 sqm area. Tamoor Nagar in New Friends Colony had the same problem,” said Vimal Dev Monga, president of the RWA. 
    Residents said that the two plant representatives gave several explanations for the ash. “They first said that there was a problem with the start-up of boiler number two. Then they said the waste being sent by the municipal corporation was wet and contained a lot of dust. They also added that excessive steam was being released. It is immaterial what is causing this situation but it has to be stopped,” said residents.
    Jindal Ecopolis could not be contacted for comments, though sources said the plant was barely functioning due to shortage of proper waste. Environment department sources also said that they were keeping a strict watch on the emissions and that those met prescribed parameters.

AWASH WITH ASH: Soot covered cars parked in the colony as well as plants in the neighbourhood


Neha Lalchandani, The Times of India 
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