Public health crisis due to hazardous pollutants like Dioxins has been a major concern in Okhla
Struggle against waste incinerators in Narela-Bawana and Ghazipur continues
New Delhi/25/02/2015: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal today assured a delegation of Sukhdev Vihar residents from Okhla, South Delhi district that the polluting incinerator based waste-to-energy plant being operated close to residential areas, would be shut down. This highly controversial plant of 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 has been running using an unapproved and untested Chinese technology with impunity.
With this the struggle of Okhla residents’ Anti-Incinerator Committee and environmental groups has reached a crucial stage. Such technologies have been supported by both BJP and Congress in Delhi with total disregard towards their public health consequences. Delhi Chief Minister’s assurance has brought a sigh of relief.
The location of this hazardous incinerator plant is surrounded by New Friends Colony, Nehru Place, Kalkaji, Abul Fazal Enclave, Sukhdev Vihar, Greater Kailash, Govindpuri, Sriniwaspuri, Tughlakabad, Sarita Vihar, Jasola, Shaheen Bagh, Jaitpur, Madanpur, Badarpur,Zakir Nagar, Okhla Vihar, Ghaffar Manzil Colony,hazi colony, Batla House and Harkesh Nagar. It is in the proximity of Okhla Sanctuary, a Bird Park and Wildlife Sanctuary, where during the month of September thousands of migratory birds including shovellers, pintail, common teal, gadwall and blue winged teal visit the area.
This plant is in the vicinity Indraprastha Apollo Hospital and Escort Heart Hospital, Al-shifa Multi Speciality Hospital, Holy Family Hospital, M.A Ansari Health Center and public gardens like Kalindi Kunj,Okhla Head, the most famous public garden close to the river of Yamuna. Delhi Ride Park also open in kalindi kunj park.
Delhi chief minister was given a copy of a letter written to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) chairman demanding answers to 21 issues surrounding the controversial plant, including illegal siting in a residential area and failure to control toxic emissions ever since the plant began operation two years ago. The letter presented indisputable facts about violations of all the rules in the rule book in violation of the ‘battery limit’ set by the Ministry of Environment and Forests for such polluting industries. Delhi Urban Arts Committee (DUAC) never cleared the project given the proximity to marble monuments like the Bahai temple and Humayun’s tomb which are vulnerable to acid rain.
This plant is sited perilously close to several educational and research institutions -– the Central Road Research Institute, the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology, Jamia Millia Islamia and several schools.
Former environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, after visiting the plant wrote to former chief minister Sheila Dikshit pointing out several anomalies such as the failure to take the public into confidence in the prescribed manner. Notably, tests ordered by the National Green Tribunal have shown Dioxins, a dangerously toxic substance released by incineration, to be several times more than permissible limits. The CPCB does not have any means to test for dioxins continuously, online and on a readily verifiable basis. Residents have repeatedly complained to CPCB and DPCC about excessive pollution released daily by the plant on a daily, causing eye irritation and breathing difficulties. These complaints were accompanied by photographic evidence. The burning of waste results in the release of a cocktail of pollutants – SOx, NOx, SPM, RSPM, dioxins, furans and heavy metals like lead, cadmium and mercury (from batteries and CFLs).
In 2014 the Parliamentary Committee on Urban Affairs in its report severely criticised the government for ‘callously’ siting the plant in a residential area unmindful of the serious health hazards it poses to people residing in distant areas because of the nature of aerial dioxin transport. The National Environment Engineering Institute prepared a report, commissioned by Delhi’s local bodies on incineration, warned of serious public health consequences from the kind of open incineration being practiced at Okhla in 2014.
In such a backdrop, Delhi chief minister’s assurance made the residents and environmental groups quite hopeful. "We are extremely happy with the chief minister's positive response to a horrendous situation in Sukhdev Vihar where people are being poisoned with toxic gases on a daily basis," said Huma Hashim a resident of Sukhdev Vihar and a community leader.
In a letter to Delhi Chief Minister dated 16 February, 2015, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), a research and advocacy group had demanded that “AAP Government should abandon hazardous waste incinerator based power plant in Okhla and adopt zero waste philosophy for decentralized management of municipal waste.”
Meanwhile, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is pursuing the Case No. 8296/30/10/2014 filed by TWA which has been campaigning against this toxic Dioxins emitting plant since 2005 and is pursuing a case against the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) against toxic threat from municipal waste incinerator plants in Okhla, Narela-Bawana and Ghazipur.
It is relevant to recall that Delhi High Court's judgment dated January 15, 2013 established the health impacts from the incinerator based on existing medical literature. The High Court judgment refers to 'The summary of "Epidemiological Studies on Adverse Health Effects Associated with Incineration" would show that medical waste incinerators are a leading source of dioxins and mercury in the environment and there is link between incinerator emissions and adverse health impacts on incinerator workers and residents living around the incinerators.'
The observations made in the judgment will have far reaching implications. It reads: "Both older and more modern incinerators can contribute to the contamination of local soil and vegetation with dioxins and heavy metals. In several European countries, cow"s milk from farms located in the vicinity of incinerators has been found to contain elevated levels of dioxin, in some cases above regulatory limits. Increased levels of dioxins have been found in the tissues of residents near to incinerators in the UK, Spain and Japan. At anincinerator in Finland, mercury was increased in hair of residents living in the vicinity. Children living near a modern incinerator in Spain were found to have elevated levels of urinary thioethers, a biomarker of toxic exposure. " It notes that "After 2 years of operation of incinerator, dioxins levels were found increased by about 25% in both groups living between 0.5 to 1.5 and 3.5 to 4.0 km away (201 people) of people. In the repeat analysis, the increase was in the range of 10-15%".
The judgment records that "Mothers living close to incinerators and crematoria from 1956 to 1993" showed "increased risk of lethal congenital abnormalities, in particular, spinal bifida and heart defects, near incinerators: increased risk of stillbirths and anacephalus near crematoria".
With regard to "Residents from 7 to 64 years old living within 5 km of an incinerator and the incinerator workers" the judgment observes, "Levels of mercury in hair increased with closer proximity to the incinerator during a 10 year period". The judgment recorded that "Residents living within 10 km of an incinerator, refinery, and waste disposal site" showed "Significant increase in laryngeal cancer in men living with closer proximity to the incinerator and other pollution sources". The *"Residents living around an incinerator and other pollution sources" showed "Significant increase in lung cancer related specifically to the incinerator". *The *"People living within 7.5 km of 72 incinerators" displayed "Risks of all cancers and specifically of stomach, colorectal, liver and lung cancer increased with closer proximity to incinerators".
Residents have been holding demonstrations, fighting court cases, and meeting officials since 2009 seeking relief from the smoke and ash from Prithiraj Jindal's municipal waste to energy plant and the Agarwal's biomedical waste incinerator.
Earlier, in a letter dated April 1, 2014 sent to residents of Sukhdev Vihar, Okhla Col. Devinder Sehrawat, AAP candidate for South Delhi Lok Sabha constituency had promised that "when the AAP returns to power in Delhi, this plant would be shut down and if not, at least shifted to another suitable location with little loss of time. Hence, the voters of the area need to take the right decision at the polls."
TWA along with residents had given a petition to chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on January 11, 2014 and asked the then Delhi environment minister Saurabh Bhardwaj on January 27, 2014 to intervene and save the residents from the incinerator plant.
TWA has been underling the collusion between BJP and Indian National Congress to promote toxic municipal waste incinerators in Delhi's Narela-Bawana, Ghazipur and Okhla. Doctors, judges and residents hold that toxic emissions from such plants have been linked to cancers, respiratory ailments and birth defects. TWA has been demanding that the waste incinerators plants should be shut down for good because shifting a polluting unit of factory does not make it non-polluting.
Unaware of Delhi Chief Minister’s stance, Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) has sent a misleading reply dated February 11, 2015 in response to NHRC's notice. NHRC’s case and Chief Minister’s assurance underlines the issue of violation of human rights because of health consequences of environmental lawlessness.
For Details: Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb: 9818089660, 08227816731, E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org, Web: www.toxicswatch.org
Huma Hashim, Okhla Anti-incinerator Committee, E-mail: email@example.com, Mb: 9999060121, Okhla ka Ghosla- https://www.facebook.com/ghoslaokhla