Green Tribunal issues warrant against Commissioner, MCD in Jindal’s waste power plant case
CAG should audit waste to energy plants like it did into the failure of Timarpur waste to energy plant
New Delhi: Justice Swatanter Kumar headed bench of National Green Tribunal took serious note of non-appearance of Commissioner, Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) while hearing the public interest petition was filed by Sukhdev Vihar Residents Welfare Association on March 11, 2013 in the matter of the setting up the energy plant for processing municipal solid waste (msw) for generation of 16 MW power. The copy of Tribunal’s order is attached.
It may be noted that since the petition was filed the company, 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 managed to get clearance for 20.9 MW.
It is relevant to remember that the Timarpur-Okhla project began when the MCD proposed to initiate a waste to energy (WTE) project at Timarpur that uses incineration. The Timarpur Waste Management Company Pvt. Ltd. (TWMCPL), a subsidiary of Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd. (IL&FS) plans to generate 6 MW of electricity from the project at Timarpur, Delhi. TWMCPL is a subsidiary of IL&FS and has been created only for Timarpur project. A Memorandum of Understanding between MCD and IL&FS was signed in March 2005 by D K Mittal, the then CEO of TWMCPL and Rakesh Mehta, the then Commissioner of MCD. On March 14, 2005, MCD said that it plans to earn carbon credits from the project. Subsequently, TWMCPL was renamed as Timarpur-Okhla Waste Management Co Pvt Ltd (TOWMCL) and it changed hands to become a subsidiary of the JUIL and incorporated Okhla site in its scheme of projects. The public health crisis in Okhla is the legacy of Rakesh Mehta's tenure. It is only appropriate that the Tribunal that brought MCD's role at the center stage.
The March 11, 2013 order of the Green Tribunal reads: “The grievance of the Petitioner was that this Unit, if established, would cause tremendous environmental implications in regard to its functioning and discharge of other effluents. The other submission made was that all round the Unit, in fact within 200 meters of the location of the Unit, there are residential colonies. The running of this Unit shall cause irreparable damage not only to the environmental but even to the health of the residents of that area. Thus would violate the constitutional protection granted to them under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. This petition was ordered to be transferred to this Tribunal by the order dated 23rd January, 2013 of the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi at New Delhi.”
The order notes, “…the Unit has already been installed and is functioning for last more than one year. According to him it contains all modern technological features for containing any kind of pollution”, according to the company.
It records that “the learned counsel appearing for the Applicant, even Ministry of Environment and Forests had imposed certain conditions, which have not been complied with by the Unit and it has breached number of other obligations upon it.”
The Tribunal issued the directions constituting a team of experts which consisting of Member Secretary of Central Pollution Control Board, Member Secretary of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee, Representative Scientist from the Ministry of Environment and Forests, a Technical Expert to be nominated by the Applicant, a representative of the project proponent and Environmental Engineer from the Delhi Pollution Control Committee.
The Tribunal’s direction states that “1. The above Committee shall visit the site without serving any Notice to the Respondent No.9. It will be a surprise inspection, but at a point of time when the Unit is functioning to is optimum capacity continuously atleast for 2 hours. 2. The expert Committee shall take stack as well as ambient air samples from the chimney and around the places in question. 3. The Samples shall also be taken from an area especially residential area falling within one and three kilometers of all sides of the Unit including settled dust/dust fall. 4. They shall also state the prevalent air and wind velocity at the time of sampling. 5. The samples so collected will be taken for analysis in two laboratories first one being laboratory of CPCB and other being an approved laboratory by the Ministry of Environment and Forests such as Shri Ram Institute of Industrial Research, Delhi. 6. While collecting samples as well as otherwise, it will be stated, that what is the quantity and quality of the ash being discharged from the Unit including the details of supporting fuels being fired in the incinerator. 7. While conducting the physical inspection of the functioning Unit, it shall also be stated what are the pollution devices that have been installed in the Unit in question. 8. Samples of residual waste, if any, shall also be collected and analyzed for its physical and chemical composition. 9. The inspection team shall also place on record the mechanism that is adopted for disposal of residual waste. 10. Aerial distance of MSW facility from Badarpur TPS. Let this report be submitted before the Tribunal within two weeks from today.” Besides the Chairperson the Tribunal Bench comprised of Justice P. Jyothimani, Dr. D. K. Agrawal, Dr. G. K. Pandey and Prof. A.R. Yousuf. The next date of hearing is April 4, 2013.
So far the fact that this waste based plant using experimental incinerator technology is in violation of the Supreme Court order has not been put on record. Waste to Energy projects based on incineration technology violate Supreme Court’s order dated May 6, 2005 wherein it said, “…we hope that till the position is clear, the Government would not sanction any further subsidies.” It is noteworthy that on 15th May, 2007, the Court’s order "permit (s) Ministry of Non-conventional Energy Sources (MNES) to go ahead for the time being with 5 pilot projects chosen by them" but it is noteworthy that this refers specifically to bio-methanation technology. MNES is renamed as Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE). It has been revealed through Right to Information application that neither the proposed Delhi’s waste to energy incinerator projects one of those 5 pilot projects nor is it based on the recommended Biomethanation technology.
The plant became operational in 2012 but it is using untested and unapproved Chinese incinerator technology, a fact noted in the report of the Central Pollution Control Board.
The Tribunal should take cognizance of the ‘White Paper on Pollution in Delhi with an Action Plan’ prepared by Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, the Chief Minister has been misled in to promoting it. The White Paper says, “The experience of the incineration plant at Timarpur, Delhi and the briquette 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.” The paper is available on Ministry’s website.
It is a test case for Tribunal as far as cardinal principles of municipal waste management and the grievances of the Okhla residents is concerned. The precedent the Tribunal sets will have far reaching implications for municipal waste management across the country. It will also reveal the limitations in dealing with a plant that is based on the primitive combustion technology that has been tried and tested and resulted in the failure of the Timarpur waste to energy plant. The Jindal’s plant is running after violating every rule in the rule book. It is a cause of point source of pollution.
After the failure of the Timarpur waste to energy plant, the Delhi High Court had ordered an enquiry by the Comptroller Auditor General (CAG). In its annual report dated March 1990, the Comptroller Auditor General of India (CAG) observed, “The Refuse Incinerator-cum-Power Generation Plant installed by Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources in March 1985 remained inoperative since its installation. The Ministry failed to utilise or dispose off the inoperative plant and incurred an expenditure of Rs 1.25 crore on maintenance and insurance of the plant.” The project was scrapped in July 1990. It is germane to note that Union Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources is now called Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy which provides a subsidy of Rs 1.5 crore/MW is distorting waste management in the country including Delhi. As per Supreme Court’s order such subsidies are not meant for incinerator plants like the one in Okhla.
ToxicsWatch Alliance demands that CAG should audit the Okhla plant and all such waste to energy plants in the country as it did into the failure of Delhi’s Timarpur waste to energy plant.
For Details: Gopal Krishna, Convener, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb: 9818089660
Vimal Monga, ex-President, Sukhdev Vihar Resident Welfare Association Mb: 9711408421
Asha Arora, Okhla Anti-incinerator Committee, Mb: 9810499277
Okhla Anti-incinerator Committee, http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/ghoslaokhla