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Green Tribunal’s order on Okhla Bird Sanctuary applicable to Jindal’s Waste Power Plant

Written By Gopal Krishna on Saturday, August 24, 2013 | 2:57 AM



Press Release 

Green Tribunal’s order on Okhla Bird Sanctuary applicable to Jindal’s Waste Power Plant

Toxic ash fall poses grave threat to birds and residents who face routine hazardous emissions from Jindal’s Power Plant based on unapproved Chinese waste boiler technology  

Okhla Bird Sanctuary should be declared a Ramasar site

Transboundary air pollution affects Delhi’s Okhla vegetable market and UP’s NOIDA areas,
Union Environment Minister asked by RWAs to shut down the plant

Plant functions sans mandatory clearances from National Board for Wildlife

New Delhi Aug 24, 2013: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) order of August 14, 2003 which put a stop to all illegal constructions in a 10-km radius of Okhla Bird Sanctuary at the Okhla barrage over Yamuna River on Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border is applicable to the waste incineration based power plant of M/s Jindal Urban Infrastructure Limited (JUIL), a company of M/s Jindal Saw Group Limited that is facing bitter opposition from residents, environmental groups and waste pickers of Delhi. The plant is just 1.7-km away from the Okhla Bird Sanctuary. The sanctuary is situated at the entrance of Noida in Gautam Budh Nagar district of Uttar Pradesh.

An area of 3.5 square kilometres on the river Yamuna was notified as a bird sanctuary by the Government of Uttar Pradesh under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 in 1990.

The Jindal’s power plant is sandwiched between an eco sensitive zone and the residential colonies. The plant is situated at a distance of less than 50-100 meters from the residential colonies. This hazardous plant has an adverse impact on a large number of transcontinental migratory birds that visit the Okhla sanctuary. Their numbers have decreased over the years. Not only that there is a large lake which lies sandwiched between Okhla village towards the west and Gautam Budh Nagar towards the east, the impact of the plant on this water source was not been disclosed in the Environment Impact Assessment report of the plant. This plant does not have the required mandatory clearances from the National Board for Wildlife. The sanctuary is approachable from Mathura Road (NH-2), via Sarita Vihar going towards NOIDA.

The nearest stations of Delhi Metro are Sarita Vihar and Jasola Apollo metro station. This also reveals that the plant located in the vicinity of the sanctuary is amidst densely populated residential area.

Residents once again took the burnt of toxic ash fall on them on August 23, 2013. Central Pollution Control Board has noted in its report submitted to the Tribunal that hazardous pollutants get created when the plant starts operations and when it shuts down. The fact is that even if there is very high temperature to incinerate the mixed municipal waste for operations it emits persistent organic pollutants and heavy metals. The plant emits pink, yellow, black and white smoke which is demonstrates the lethal nature of the emissions. Residents are held a meeting today take stock of the grave situation they are routinely faced with.    

A scientist with the NGT appointed Commission, Dr U.C. Bahri wrote to Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on 16 August 2013 saying, “Dust from Waste to energy plant was shocking… We expect strong action against the operators so that people living around should not suffer” and shared pictures with it. Delhi Chief Minister and all the central and state agencies continues to feign ignorance about the plight of residents of Okhla. The residents will surely give a befitting reply to her in the upcoming assembly elections.   

If National Green Tribunal’s order does not apply to Okhla’s municipal waste to energy plant functioning in Okhla in the name power generation its order will appear to be empty symbolism. This plant is surrounded by Sukhdev Vihar, university, schools, hospitals, bird sanctuary and several other residential areas of Okhla. This residents’ case against it is before the Tribunal which will hear the case on August 29, 2013.

It is quite disturbing that Okhla’s vegetable market (subzi mandi) is getting submerged in the ashes which emerge from the plant which is burning some 2050 Metric Tons of mixed municipal waste which has hazardous waste characteristics. 

This Jindal’s power 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 habitations of birds and humans and a number of binding guidelines from multiple state agencies and Supreme Court directive, the plant has deployed unapproved and untested Chinese technology for power generation from burning the garbage unmindful of its human and environmental cost due to emissions of pollutants like persistent organic pollutants and heavy metals. This has serious health and environment implications for the residents of National Capital Region (NCR) in general and Okhla and NOIDA residents in particular. Transboundary air pollution from plant is adversely affecting Delhi’s Okhla vegetable market and UP’s NOIDA areas.      

South Delhi's residents in Okhla face toxic dust as Jindal’s waste based power plant in Sukhdev Vihar, Okhla spews out large clouds of thick emissions. Such toxic emissions from the Jindal’s power plant in an ecologically sensitive area and thickly populated area has become a routine affairs with all the concerned authorities turning a blind eye towards this illegitimate and illegal act. The apparent complicity of the central ministries of New and Renewable Energy and Environment & Forests, State Government’s Delhi Pollution Control Committee and Municipal Corporation is quite stark. They appear helpless in the face of the corporate might of the company.
 Residents are left choking and spluttering and suffered severe eye irritation in Sukhdev Vihar which is barely 100 metres from the plant.  Much of Sukhdev Vihar, Hazi colony, Gaffar Manzil and adjoining colonies including Jamia Milia Islamia and hospitals remains blanketed by soapy brown ash which had to be cleaned off floors, cars and even trees and shrubbery.  

This plant is in violation of the Supreme Court order in Writ Petition (Civil) 888 of 1996. The matter will come for hearing again on August 27, 2013. In the matter of Okhla's waste to energy plant even Shri Jairam Ramesh, the then Union Environment Minister had written a letter dated April 1, 2011 to the Chief Minister of Delhi following a site visit on March 30, 2011 and meeting with residents on 31st March, 2011 underlining violation of environmental regulations.    

Tribunal ought to intervene urgently to prevent public health and environmental disaster due to this municipal waste to energy incinerator plant in the Okhla area in particular and in Delhi in general. Such unprecedented health crisis has been witnessed in Gandhumguda village, Peeranchery Panchayat, Ranga Reddy district in Andhra Pradesh where SELCO company ran its waste to energy incinerator plant.

ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), a research and advocacy group demands that Okhla Bird Sanctuary be declared a Ramsar site. The Ramsar Convention’s Article 1.1 defines wetlands as “areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six metres.” This definition can be applied to Okhla Bird Sanctuary. Its Article 2.1 provides that wetlands to be included in the Ramsar List of internationally important wetlands “may incorporate riparian and coastal zones adjacent to the wetlands, and islands or bodies of marine water deeper than six metres at low tide lying within the wetlands.” Wetlands are areas where water is the primary factor controlling the environment and the associated plant and animal life. They occur where the water table is at or near the surface of the land, or where the land is covered by water.

There are total 26 recognized Ramsar sites in India. Okhla Bird Sanctuary should be made India’s 27th Ramasar site to ensure its protection and conservation from encroachments and industrial pollution. NCR does not have any Ramasar site.

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 environmental movement. So far Tribunal has not taken any action penalizing the Jindal’s plant for its acts of omission and commission and violation of all the rules in the rule book.    

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, the most toxic substances known to mankind. This plant is owned by Prithviraj Jindal who won an open tender in 2008 to build and operate the plant for 25 years at a project cost of Rs 240 crore. The owner has ignored the disastrous environmental health consequences of its operations. 

Not surprisingly, resident welfare associations have written to Jayanthi Natarajan, Minister of Environment and Forests asking her to act on Ministry’s “own guidelines and exercise relevant statutory provisions under Section 3 of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 and Section 5 (1) of the Environment Protection Act 1986 to immediately shut down the plant.” 

For Details: Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb:09818089660, 08227816731
E-mail: gopalkrishna1715@gmail.com , Web: www.toxicswatch.org
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