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Tribunal allows UP Govt to be party in Delhi’s Okhla power plant/Bird Sanctuary case

Written By Gopal Krishna on Friday, July 05, 2013 | 3:42 AM

Tribunal allows UP Govt to be party in Delhi’s Okhla power plant/Bird Sanctuary case 

Notice issued on application seeking closure of Jindal’s waste based Okhla power plant

Next date of hearing is on July 22  


New Delhi, July 5, 2013: National Green Tribunal allowed UP Government to be made a party in the case seeking closure of municipal waste to energy incinerators functioning in Sukhdev Vihar, Okhla. The case Sukhdev Vihar Residents Welfare Association & Ors. Vs State of NCT of Delhi & Ors. (M.A No. 562/2013 in Original Application No.22(THC)/2013) came for hearing today before the Principal Bench comprising of Justice Swatanter Kumar, Justice U.D. Salvi, Dr. Devendra Kumar Agrawal, Mr P. S. Rao and Mr Ranjan Chatterjee.

Toxic emissions from the waste based power plant in their neighbourhood of Okhla Bird and Wildlife Sanctuary which falls both under the jurisdiction of Uttar Pradesh Government in Noida is an inter-state matter. In the meanwhile, District Forest Officer, Gautam Buddh Nagar, B Prabhakar has visited the site and measured the distance from of the sanctuary from the hazardous plant. The plant ins question has come up in manifest violation of the Wildlife Protection Act and the Environment Protection Act in the proximity of Okhla Bird Sanctuary that lies on the Noida-Delhi border near Kalindi Kunj. In a grave act of omission and commission the plant has been constructed without informing the Government of Uttar Pradesh and the residents of Okhla, Delhi and NOIDA, UP.

This power plant of M/s Jindal Urban Infrastructure Limited (JUIL), a company of M/s Jindal Saw Group Limited based untested and unapproved Chinese technology is facing bitter opposition from environmental groups, residents and waste pickers. This hazardous plant claims to use 2050 Metric Ton of municipal waste to generate 20.9 MW of electricity.

This plant is situated not only in the proximity of New Friends Colony, Maharani Bagh, Sukhdev Vihar and the business district Nehru Place - but also several prominent institutions, including hospitals like Apollo, Escorts and Holy Family.  But disregarding these, as also a number of binding guidelines from multiple state agencies and at least one Supreme Court directive, the plant has come up, under the shade of slack regulation, at one-tenth the cost of a world-class waste-to-energy facility, deploying China-made equipment and inadequately provisioning for toxic by-products of incineration. It is strange that the Delhi government is backing the project as a technology solution to the city's two enduring, and worsening, problems - excess of waste and shortage of power. But while contributing to the solution of two problems, the plant kindles a number of new ones, with potentially serious health and environment implications for the residents of Delhi. 

Unmindful of such concerns, Jindal Saw Group Managing Director, Indresh Batra, who runs the Jindal group unit responsible for the controversial plant claims, "Our plant uses the latest technology. It is absolutely safe. Such plants exist around the world in the middle of cities. In Paris, close to the Eiffel Tower, there is a plant."  Batra and his group - the companies owned by the family of Prithviraj Jindal, Batra's father-in-law and son of the late OP Jindal - won an open tender in 2008 to build and operate the plant for 25 years at a project cost of Rs 240 crore.  The polluting potential of a plant using municipal solid waste as fuel is serious. Emissions include suspended particulate matter (SPM), sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx), hydrogen chloride (HCl), and dioxins and furans, which are among the most toxic substances known to science..

As per the Manual on Municipal Solid Waste Management, Union Ministry of Urban Development, physical composition of Indian waste shows that inert material constitutes from 43.59 % to 53.90 % and compostable matter constitutes 44.57 % to 30.84 %. Thus, the total inert residue from waste to energy incinerator projects will be significantly higher after the incineration of waste which will produce toxic ash as well that requires disposal in engineered landfills.

The same manual reveals the chemical composition of Indian waste has the calorific value of 1009.89 kcal/kg to 800.70 kcal/kg with moisture content ranging from 25.81 % to 38.72 % and organic matter ranging from 37.09 % to 39.07 %.

It has been established that everything organic has a ratio of carbon to nitrogen (C:N) in its tissues. It is the combination of materials that creates the ideal climate for compost microbes-a C:N ratio of 30:1. In such a context, a Technical Report titled "Environmental Audit of Municipal Solid Waste Management, June 2006" infers, "we can deduce the Indian waste has a high content of organic matter, which makes it suitable for processes like composting and anaerobic digestion.  The C/N ratio is between 20-30 and this ratio is very suitable for composting (Eiland, et al, 2001). The waste also has a high moisture content which makes it unsuitable for incineration." The audit was done with financial assistance from the Union Ministry of Science and Technology.

The waste to energy incinerator projects does not make municipal solid waste disappear or minimize inert residue instead they maximize it. They encourage waste generation and current patterns of production and consumption, which are at the root of solid waste problems. They are the most costly of all solid waste management options; result in air and water pollution, and still need to be supplemented by landfills as they produce an ash that is far more toxic than ordinary domestic trash. This has not been disclosed.

Even with waste to energy incinerators NCR will still need landfills for ash disposal and construction wastes. Ash can comprise about 25% by weight of an incinerator’s throughput and must be landfilled. Thus, incineration means incineration plus landfill. There are two kinds of by-pass waste: bulky materials that do not fit into the incinerator (such as mattresses), and collected waste that cannot be burned when the incinerator is down for regularly scheduled or unscheduled maintenance. These materials typically require landfilling in communities that have built incinerators.

The CPCB website that the EPCA monitors implementation of action points enlisted in the "White Paper on Pollution with an Action Plan" of the Union Ministry of Environment & Forests. The relevant part of White Paper in paragraph 4.1 reads: "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."
Reference: http://envfor.nic.in/divisions/cpoll/delpolln.html  

It is clear from Environmental Ministry's White Paper and the Technical Report prepared with assistance from Ministry of Science and Technology that MCD's “waste load” and its mishandling by the aforementioned contractors will distort the municipal solid waste management beyond repair.

The municipal waste to energy incinerator in the residential area is based on hazardous incinerator technology that emits persistent organic pollutants like Dioxins and toxic heavy metals like Mercury. Incinerators are tried, tested and failed technology.

The ongoing protest rallies and an online campaign on Facebook - Okhla ka Ghosla- against the toxic, waste-to-energy incinerator where students are also participating in large numbers underlines that the operation of Jindal’s waste burning based power plant is an act of environmental lawlessness in the heart of the national capital. If Tribunal ensures closure of this illegitimate and illegal plant, it will enhance its credibility and prestige before the the environmental movement.  

For Details: Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb: 09818089660, 08227816731
E-mail: gopalkrishna1715@gmail.com , Web: www.toxicswatch.org
K K Rohatagi, Lawyer, Sukhdev Vihar Residents Welfare Association, Mb:9810134860

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