Shri Prakash Singh Badal
Government of Punjab
Subject-Violation of Supreme Court's order and imminent toxic ash fall from the proposed waste based thermal power plant in Jalandhar district, a legacy of Shri A Raja's tenure as environment minister
Dear Shri Badal Jee,
This is to bring to your notice the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) on Urban Development submitted to the Parliament in 2014 which recommends that "Incinerator plants should be stopped in all residential areas in all metropolitan & Big cities across the country". This is relevant for Jalandhar district.
We submit that the proposed plant is in violation of battery limit laws of the union ministry of environment & forests which prescribe a minimum distance of one kilometre for plants of this type from residential areas and highways.
We wish to inform you that the incomplete public hearing for “Municipal solid waste processing facility” at Jamsher village in Punjab's Jalandhar district on 30th September 2011 was quite strange. Although it is clear from the website of Municipal Corporation of Jalandhar that actually it is a waste burning project, the residents and villagers were never informed about it. It is a power plant project based on waste. The question is why has Punjab Pollution Control Board and the project developer hidden this fact from the public.
We have learnt from newspapers and research reports that such plants have failed in India, why a failed project is being proposed here. A similar plant has failed in Timarpur in Delhi and in Andhra Pradesh. Delhi High Court had scolded the Govt. for such experimental technology in the past.
Project Developer and Punjab Pollution Control Board are trying to confuse the public by not revealing that waste burning is highly polluting. It has not told the public about the health effects and diseases caused by waste burning plants. This is not mentioned in the EIA report.
It is shocking that the EIA report was not made available to the public of Jalandhar in Punjabi. Nobody sitting in the public hearing from the villages got a copy of this report in Punjabi.
We have come to know that the project violates Hon’ble Supreme Court’s order on waste to energy based on waste burning. This has been reported in the newspapers that no health and environmental loving person can allow such polluting and disease causing plant in their place of residence.
We are deeply concerned about the health of the villagers from the locality and its impact on the dairy.
In the draft EIA report for ‘Municipal Solid Waste Processing Facility’, it is stated that three technologies namely RDF, Bio-methenation and compositing will be used. However, we have learnt that the bidder for this project using the mass burning technology whereas your EIA report is based upon combination of different technologies. This appears to be a case of outwitting Supreme Court orders dated 16.05.2007 in the Almitra H Patel Vs Union of India case. The project proponent is violating the Supreme Court orders, which has recommended only biomethanation technology.
Department of Local Government, Government of Punjab has initiated to implement an “integrated MSW management facility for Jalandhar cluster comprising of Jalandhar city and 25 other Urban Local Bodies (ULBs).”
As per 136 page Draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report, “ The facility will comprise of a MSW processing facility at Jamsher village in Jalandhar district for processing the MSW from Jalandhar cluster and an engineered Sanitary Land Fill (SLF) site at Hoshiarpur town in Hoshiarpur district for disposal of processing rejects and other inert wastes generated by the processing facility.”
It is noteworthy that while the project has two components comprising of “municipal solid waste processing facility” and an engineered Sanitary Land Fill, this EIA report only deals with the former. It appears that the project has deliberately been broken into two parts to obviate combined resistance from the villagers of Jamsher and Hoshiarpur.
This EIA report is misleading both the residents of Jamsher, Hoshiarpur the Jalandhar. The report states that the total area available for development of the “MSW facility is approximately 25 acres”. Why does it exclude Hoshiarpur’s 30 acre? As per the TOR given in the Draft EIA report for the MSW facility, some 20 points out of the 35 points mentioned refer to landfill but this document is silent about it.
It is claimed that the MSW processing plant to consist of burning of RDF (Refuse Derived Fuel) plant, biomethanation plant, power plant (optional) and composting facility. The plant will be designed to process 700 Tonnes Per Day (TPD) of Municipal Solid Waste and is expected to generate around 260 TPD of Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) in the form of fluff. The fluff is expected to have a Gross Calorific Value (GCV) of 2,500 Kcal/kg to 27,000 Kcal/kg. The plant will also be designed to process 50 TPD of green waste for producing biogas in a biomethanation plant and manure in a composting facility. The biogas generated is expected to be about 2,750 to 3,000 Nm3/day and manure quantity is expected to be about 6-7 TPD. The RDF plant and the biomethanation plant are expected to operate for 330 days in a year. The total cost of the integrated MSW processing facility is estimated to INR 99.21 crores. The project will be made operational in a span of 14 months.
It is confessed that waste collected from various sources in the Jalandhar cluster will have differing calorific values. It is not revealed how Indian waste, which has calorific value of 800-1000 kcal will gain the Gross Calorific Value) of 2,600+ kcal / kg after drying and separation of non-combustible and recyclable fraction and after conversion to RDF. If the project is to be implemented by companies like Jindal Urban Infrastructure Limited (JUIL), a company of M/s Jindal Saw Group Limited owned by Prithviraj Jindal, which has no previous experience in waste management, it will distort waste management beyond repair.
The Draft EIA states that “A power plant of 6MW capacity will be installed as part of the MSW processing plant. The boiler of the power plant will designed to be fired with RDF, biogas and CNG…” It also reveals that it is actually a furnace for burning waste. This is clearly a case of Dioxins emitting machine being proposed in a residential area unmindful of the fact that pollutants are passengers without passports which will enter the food chain and harm the present and future generations.
Given the fact that the project proponent is using RDF technology it is relevant to note that all such experiments based on this technology to treat waste has failed in the country. A similar plant proposal compelled the union Environment Minister to write to Delhi chief minister that there has been violation in basic condition stipulated in environment condition. This project violates several national and international laws related to pollution. It violates Municipal Solid Waste rules 2000. It violates the recommendation of the environment Ministry in its white paper that Indian waste is suitable only for Biological Treatment Methods. It violates the recommendation of Supreme Courts committee on Waste to Energy that insisted on segregation of waste its source. Once waste is segregated, compostable waste can be composted and recycled waste can be recycled. In such a scenario, what is the need to burn the waste. This is clearly an irrational project that must be rejected because it does not deserve the Environmental Clearance.
This project violates a Stockholm convention on persistent organic pollutants like dioxins. The project will also emit heavy metals like mercury, lead and others. The power generated will be highly expensive. Experts suggest that it is 4-5times costlier than the conventional electricity. The EIA report does not reveal how the project developer will deal with toxic ash which will contain heavy metals like mercury. If such ash is dumped in place like Hoshiarpur, it will adversely affect the health of the people of Hoshiarpur. It is quite disturbing that public hearing for the landfill at Hoshiarpur was conducted separately from this public hearing. In 1990’s, a similar waste Energy Plant was shut down in Delhi because the garbage had about 60% organic waste and large amount of silt. The waste of Jalandhar will not be any different. Waste incineration violates Kyoto protocol because it emits Green House Gases. This technology has high public health cost. It causes cancers, birth defects in villagers living in the vicinity of incineration.
Incineration promotes waste generation, what is required is waste prevention and reduction and zero waste system that guarantees returned on investments and healthy communities. It is also to be noted that Ministry of new renewable energy is damaging waste management in cities like Jalandhar by providing subsidy to such polluting projects. There is threat to ground water from ash disposal. Incineration also creates huge amount of Air pollution. It also releases Carbon monoxide, oxides of sulphur and nitrogen, hydrocarbons and particulates in the air. One does not know whether Punjab Pollution Control Board has the capacity to even test persistent organic pollutants like dioxins. One does not know how the project developer will segregate heavy metals like lead and mercury from the mixed waste which is to be burnt as per the EIA report.
In view of the above, it is clear that incineration is the most costly waste management option from the point of view of public health environment and natural resources. Therefore, the project the power plant based on waste should not get environmental clearance.
We submit that "setting up of waste to energy plants" is not a proper method of "better disposal of municipal waste" as per cardinal principles of municipal waste management.
The claim that it will result in minimal inert residue for landfilling along with the generation of electricity is misleading. The fact is that such claims are factually deceptive and scientifically incorrect.
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 %.
If one adds this 53.90 % of pre-existing ash with the 25 % ash which is left after the incineration of municipal waste, it comes to 78.9 %. This implies that 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.
We submit that beyond delaying the environmental impacts of toxic ash, incinerators contribute to nothing. In developed countries like USA, double lined landfills cost about half a million dollar per acre which will in all certainty leak and contaminate the ground water aquifers. In any case Delhi does not have such landfills. Even if it is there it poses threat to Delhi's ground water aquifers.
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.
Reference: CES TECHNICAL REPORT - 112 Energy and Wetlands Research Group, Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.
May we ask how is possible to generate power from municipal waste of such composition.
We submit that such WTE plants require large capital investment and show little economic return. To maintain optimal combustion they also need a constant supply of waste materials. This often results in the creation of long-term contractual agreements with local authorities (guaranteeing certain tonnages of waste per year to the incinerator) and destroys incentives to minimise waste or financially support resource recovery programmes. They do not complement recycling programmes because they require materials with high calorific value (such as paper, cardboard & plastics). Landfills are still needed to dispose of the bottom ash and fly ash which are deemed to be highly toxic and therefore must be disposed of in costly hazardous materials landfills.
We submit that incinerators are operated by a relatively small number of staff and the presence of an incinerator in a region does not attract other industries to the area.
We submit that reuse and recycling initiatives provide more than 10 times as many jobs as incineration for a given quantity of material processed.
We submit that the incineration of Delhi's mixed solid waste leads to emissions of heavy metals, dioxins and other volatile organic compounds that are released into the atmosphere.
Many studies including those mentioned in Hon'ble Delhi High Court judgement have shown that some of these compounds have been identified as a cause of cancer. Dioxins are the most toxic man-made substances known to man. The predominant source is from products such as PVC plastic (containing chlorine). This substance can persist for decades in the environment without breaking down into less harmful compounds and accumulate in soil, water and food sources.
We submit that mixed waste incinerators are inefficient energy producers, capturing only about 20% of energy generated by the waste. A huge amount of valuable resources and energy already used are lost. Recycling plastic saves 3.7 to 5.2 times more energy, recycling paper saves 2.7 to 4.3 times more energy and recycling metal saves 30 to 888 times more energy that is gained through incineration.
We submit that waste is not a renewable energy source. Waste is composed of materials produced from unsustainable and non-renewable sources. Incinerating waste destroys resources that could be recovered or minimised.
We submit that Punjab Government should be wary of misleading claims and financial incentives that distort waste management beyond repair. Union Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE) has been pushing waste incinerators under the influence of incinerator companies in violation of Hon'ble Supreme Court's order. MNRE's driving concern and mandate is to generate energy not undertake manage waste of municipal corporations and municipalities. MNRE refuses to learn from its Timarpur, Delhi blunder, Hon'ble Delhi High Court's adverse order and the unsuccessful experience with Australian company, Energy Developments Limited which too had proposed a waste incinerator at Gazipur, Delhi.
We submit that the waste to energy incinerator projects mentioned by Municipal Corporation of Jalandhar (MCJ) 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 in a deliberate act by MCJ which has chosen not to learn from its failure in Timarpur and Ghazipur.
We submit that even with waste based thermal power plant Jalandhar 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.
It is relevant to pay heed to the wisdom of the White Paper of the Union Ministry of environment & Forests. The "White Paper on Pollution with an Action Plan" of the Union Ministry of Environment & Forests that the ministry’s wisdom is opposed to such municipal waste incinerators. 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 pollutionpotential 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."
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.
It is relevant to note that a Fact Finding team comprising of Dr K Babu Rao, former scientist at the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, Hyderabad, Dr Narasimha Reddy Donthi, Chief Advisor, Chetana Society, Hyderabad and the author visited the plant site of SELCO International Ltd’s Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) incineration technology based waste to energy project at Elikatta Village, Shadnagar Mandal, Mahboobnagar district and found the plant to be locked on August 1, 2011. This is the plant that was cited a successful example by Shri Najmi Waziri, Delhi Government's counsel on 18th July, 2011 in the Delhi High Court in front of Chief Justice Bench to defend Delhi’s Okhla Waste to Energy plant.
The security guard of the SELCO International Ltd's 6.6 MW Municipal Solid Waste to Energy Project at Elikatta Village, Shadnagar Mandal, Mahboobnagar District, Andhra Pradesh informed the team that the plant is closed for the last three years. This fact has been verified with the local people and a site inspection too revealed the same.
We submit that 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.
We submit that the proposed waste to energy plant in Jalanadhar is in violation of the Supreme Court order in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 888 of 1996.
We wish to submit that unprecedented health crisis has been witnessed in Gandhumguda village, Peeranchery Panchayat, Ranga Reddy district in Andhra Pradesh where SELCO ran its waste to energy incinerator plant. The same was brought to the notice of the Supreme Court's Waste to Energy Committee by the residents and the author of this letter following which the Court only approved biomethanation technology. This order echoes the recommendations in the White Paper and the Technical Report.
The case of a Dioxins and heavy metals emitting unapproved Chinese incinerator technology based municipal solid waste (MSW) to energy 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 merits special attention because it is setting a very bad and unhealthy precedent.
We wish to draw you attention towards the report of Parliamentray Standing Committeee On Urban Development reads: "The Committee notes that the Municipal Solid Waste is 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 that Delhi's mixed municipal solid waste has characteristics of hazardous waste. MCD, Delhi government and Central Government have shown sheer callousness towards hazardous emissions from municipal incinerators that cause serious environmental and health problems to the people living not only near them but thousands of kilometers away from the source. The Committee feel anguished and dissatisfied with the reply of the Ministry that the soot in the atmosphere is reported to be within norms as it is monitored by Delhi Pollution Control Board.”
We wish to draw your attention towards the fact that the proposed plant is situated in the proximity of residential colonies. But disregarding this and a number of binding guidelines from multiple state agencies and Supreme Court’s directive, the thermal plant is being proposed under the shade of slack regulation.
It is strange that the Punjab 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 Jalandhar.
Unmindful of such concerns, the owner of this controversial plant has been making false claims about the technology being absolutely safe. 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.
I wish to bring to your notice that the residents of colonies Delhi’s Okhla including have been suffering from toxic ash fall from the date of its operation. Few days back these colonies were badly affected due the pollution caused in August 2015 by Jindal's waste incinerator in Sukhdev Vihar, Okhla. A large number of people had to wake up at 4 AM due to the feeling of suffocation. These colonies got covered with smoke during early morning hours. This is a case of promoting environmental lawlessness in the national capital using unapproved Chinese incinerator technology.
I submit that Shri Prakash Javadekar, Union Minister of Environment, Forests & Climate Change (MoEFCC) has promised to look into the matter in a response to a letter regarding imminent industrial disaster in Delhi’s Okhla. The Union Minister has communicated the same to Shri Shashi Shekhar, Special Secretary, MoEFCC and Chairman, Central Pollution Control Board. It is noteworthy that Shri Shashi Shekhar is also the head of Hazardous Substances Management Division which deals with issues of municipal solid waste (MSW) as well.
I submit that it is significant that as BJP MP Shri Vijay Kumar Malhotra, in a letter dated 27th June, 2008 to the Lt. Governor of Delhi had expressed apprehension over the location of such a plant in South Delhi. He wrote, "This plant would release various types of harmful gases which will certainly pose serious health threat to the lives of surrounding residents."
I submit that Shri Subhash Chopra, as Congress MLA, Delhi Legislative Assembly wrote separately to Chief Minister of Delhi and Lt. Governor of Delhi demanding inquiry into the toxic flay ash from the Jindal's large plant in a letter dated 27th December, 2013.
The Show Cause Notice issued to the plant of Jindal's TOWMCL reveals unambiguously that the its Consent to operate under Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 & Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 granted by Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), which exercises the delegated powers of CPCB had expired on 20th March, 2013. The plant is operating without the same since then. But DPCC has failed to order its closure despite such blatant violation of law.
It is apparent that the regulatory agencies are feeling dwarfed by the tremendous influence of the company in question. As per the website of TOWMCL, it is claimed that the plant received Consent to operate on 21st December. 2011. The fact is that the plant is operating without consent to operate since 2013.
As per the official document of DPCC on the subject of "Status of Okhla Waste to Energy plant by Timarpur-Okhla Waste Management Co Pvt Ltd" (TOWMCL) as on 16th April, 2015. The plant of TOWMCL is operational. It is processing 1950 MT of waste and generating 16 MW of power. The report mentions that the plant was supposed to use RDF technology but refrains from mentioning that it is using an unapproved Chinese technology brought to light by the CPCB committee report prepared pursuant to 22th March 2011 dated order of the then Union Minister of Environment & Forests. This led to the official recognition of deviations from approved technologies.. The Chinese technology provider is from Hangzhou New Century Company Ltd of Hangzhou Boiler Group. The High Powered Technical Experts Evaluation Committee of CPCB in its 31 page report on the Timarpur-Okhla Waste to Energy Incinerator Plant brought to light the illegalities committed by Jindal's TOWMCL. The report was communicated on March 22, 2012. This report is based on three meetings of the Technical Experts Evaluation Committee held on April 26, 2011, August 11, 2011 and September 22, 2011 under the chairmanship of Chairman, CPCB.
It is noteworthy that substitution of technology is prohibited under the provisions of the Environmental Clearance. It is deemed dangerous to according to a report of CSIR-National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI).
Notably, the representatives of GTZ (German Technical Cooperation) led by Dr. Juergen Porst, Senior Advisor stressed the need for a Disaster Management Plan in the very first meeting of this CPCB Committee, which is annexed to the CPCB's 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. This report made a shocking revelation that although Hon'ble Delhi High Court had 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 this committee, non-cooperative approach of the senior officials of Timarpur-Okhla Waste to Energy Incinerator Plant was "condemned". 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.
We wish to draw your attention towards the views of Prof. T R Sreekrishnan, Department of Biochemical Engineering and Biotechnology and a member of the Committee who 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 of the company in question.
Notably, all subsequent reports by subordinate officers of Chairman, CPCB are subservient to this report of the High Powered Technical Experts Evaluation Committee headed by Chairman, CPCB. This report revealed how illegal Chinese boilers are being used without any approval in Delhi's Okhla Waste to Energy project. The technical review by CPCB committee admitted that efficacy of reciprocal stoker type boilers (in place of RDF) "is not known for Indian conditions and requires to be verified." There is a compelling reason for treating this report as the main report of CPCB.
DPCC's attached status report dated 16th April, 2015 states, "...in case the Project Proponent (Jindal's TOWMCL) found defaulting in compliance of the direction of Tribunal, the Tribunal would be compelled to direct the closure of this industry." The DPCC concludes that "directions u/s 31 (A) of the Air Act, 1981 was issued on 03.07.2014 and simultaneously show cause notice was issued for refusal of consent under Air & Water Act and authorization under MSW Rules.
The Project Proponent has filed statutory appeal against the directions dated 03.07.2014 before the Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India. The appeal was listed for 27.02.2015 and the same is pending. The matter is to be listed for final hearing and the next date of hearing is yet to be notified." It is apparent that even DPCC was waiting for NGT to hear the matter on 7th and 8th May, 2015 after CPCB filed its inspection report.
Notably, the Environmental Clearance (EC) which has been amended several times was given to the plant of Jindal's TOWMCL. It is the sad legacy of Shri A Raja years in the MoEF and Shri Rakesh Mehta years in Municipal Corporation of Delhi and Government of NCT of Delhi.
The ToR given by MoEF's Experts Appraisal Committee to the project in question specifically demanded "Disaster Management Plan" but the High Powered Committee constituted by the then Union Minister of Environment & Forests headed by Chairman, CPCB observed in its report that this plan has not been prepared. It condemned the non-cooperation by the company. This committee noted that this plant is operating in violation of Municipal Solid Waste (Management & Handling) [MSW] Rules, 2000. It came to light from the observation of Shri A B Akolkar from CPCB. Shri Akolkar is currently the Member Secretary of CPCB.
A judgment of Delhi High relevant to Okhla 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 an incinerator 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%".
It 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 found 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".
The order observes, "10. In Master Plan for Delhi, 2021, notified on 07.02.2007, hazardous waste processing viz. hospital/medical/industrial waste is amongst the industries, manufacturing of which shall be prohibited within National Capital Territory of Delhi." It is not in dispute that Delhi's municipal waste has hazardous waste characteristics. It is noteworthy that the biomedical waste incinerator is located exactly in the vicinity of the residential colonies and Jindal's controversial municipal waste incinerator.
The plant is amidst residential colonials and institutions of national importance like Central Road Research Institute, Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology and the Indian Institute of Information Technology. Such toxic emissions from the Jindal's power plant in an ecologically sensitive area and thickly populated area has become a routine affair with all the concerned authorities turning a blind eye towards this illegitimate and illegal act. This plant has violated all the rules in the rule book.
Besides violating all the relevant laws and rules, this plant is violation of Wildlife Protection Act 1972 creating a compelling reason for the closure of this plant. 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 committee constituted after a delegation had met Shri Jairam Ramesh, the then Union Minister of Environment & Forests pursuant to his site visit of the plant. It is noteworthy that the Union Environment Minister had written to the then Chief Minister, NCT of Delhi underling that the plant is functioning in violation of environmental regulations.
This plant is in a green belt contrary to the Master Plan of Delhi, in contravention of section 3(2) (v) of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, Rule 5 (ix) of Environment (protection) Rules, 1986 and Guidelines for Establishment of Industries issued by MoEF.
As per Hon'ble Supreme Court's order in the Writ Petition (Civil) No.888 of 1996 such subsidies are not meant for incinerator plants like the one in Okhla. Court's order dated 6th May, 2005 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) and is part of Power Ministry at present. It has been revealed through RTI that neither the proposed Delhi's waste to energy incinerator projects one of those 5 pilot projects nor is it based on the recommended technology.
It is apparent that amendments made in the EC have been made to gain this assistance of Rs 1.5 crore/MW even as the stay by the Supreme Court on sanction of any further subsidies for projects on energy recovery from Municipal Solid Wastes continues to be in force, in manifest violation of Court's order. In the light of the Court's order MNRE must be persuaded to withdraw or modify its letter (No.10/3/2005-UICA) to stop promotion of polluting technologies like incinerators.
Hon'ble Supreme Court is quite categorical in saying, "The Committee has recommended that projects based on bio-methanation of MSW should be taken up only on segregated/uniform waste unless it is demonstrated that in Indian conditions, the waste segregation plant/process can separate waste suitable for bio-methanation. It has opined that there is a need to take up pilot projects that promote integrated systems for segregation/collection/ transportation and processing and treatment of waste. In view of the report of the Committee and having regard to the relevant facts, we modify the order passed by this Court earlier and permit Ministry of Non-conventional Energy Sources (MNES) to go ahead for the time being with 5 pilot projects chosen by them, keeping in view the recommendations made by the Expert Committee and then take appropriate decision in the matter." Despite this Delhi Government has erred in supporting illegal waste to energy incinerators in Delhi which is contrary to the Court's order.
But Delhi Government falsely claimed in the High Court that it was one of the five projects cleared by Supreme Court leading to dismissal of petition filed by residents but when the High Court later found to its shock that such a claim was manifestly untrue, the petition was restored. It was in March 2009 that Writ Petition (Civil) No. 9901 of 2009 which was initially dismissed on 12th August, 2009 because of misrepresentation of facts by Shri A S Chandiok the then Additional Solicitor General. Hon'ble High Court later found that it was misled earlier which had led to it dismissing the petition. The Petition was restored by an order dated 15th January, 2010. In the presence of Shri Chandihok, the bench headed by the Chief Justice, Delhi High Court in the order observed, "that the project in question" and "the location of the pilot project in Delhi was neither recommended by the Expert Committee nor approved by the Supreme Court."
It is noteworthy that Asian Development Bank (ADB)'s Asian Pacific Carbon Fund (APCF) dropped this waste to energy plant out of its portfolio amidst controversy surrounding it. In any case it is a misplaced carbon credit project. It underlines how carbon trade is not part of the solution but part of the problem.
Now a bizarre situation has emerged because the arguments for Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) incineration technology that was advanced by the company and the law officers of the previous central and state governments are 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 or in its EIA report based on which a so-called Public Hearing was conducted in Saket in the presence of two officials only as per records.
The ongoing protest rallies and an online campaigns 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.
The closure of this plant will be a major and memorable contribution to NCR's landscape for generations to come and help prevent approval for hazardous industrial units in the region at a time when Delhi's residents are gasping for fresh air.
Global experience demonstrates without any dispute that incinerator based WTE plants do not resolve the issue of non-availability of land and landfill sites because disposal of incineration ash into the landfill site remains a problem recognized under Schedule IV of the MSW (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000. This experience also shows that energy from municipal waste is not produced at any lesser price in fact it more expensive. The myth of incinerator based WTE plant solving the problem of leachate which contaminates ground water has long been debunked. The existing literature on waste management underlines that incinerator based WTE plants constitute a meaningless and misplaced option. The fact is that it is not a solution, it is a problem creator. It gives birth to the problem of what can deemed as landfills in the sky. It is a case of putting resources up in flames.
It appears strange that Punjab Government is following the footprints of a government whose misplaced initiatives like these led to it being vanquished.
Meanwhile, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is pursuing Case No. 8296/30/10/2014 filed by ToxicWatch Alliance (TWA) which has been campaigning against this toxic Dioxins emitting plant since 2005 and is pursuing a case against the toxic threat from municipal waste incinerator plants.
We seek your urgent intervention for prevention of public health and environmental disaster in Jalandhar and its adjoining areas due to the proposed Dioxins emitting power plant.
In view of the above facts, we urge you to reconsider and revise your stance towards incinerator based waste to energy projects to save present and future generation of residents of Jalandhar from being enveloped in a gas chamber as a consequence of the tried, tested and failed approach adopted for waste management.
GOPAL KRISHNA, TOXICSWATCH ALLIANCE (TWA), firstname.lastname@example.org, Mb: 09818089660, www.toxicswatch.org, NEW DELHI
Dr AMAR SINGH, CENTRE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH, PUNJAB
UMENDRA DUTT, KHETI VIRASAT MISSION, PUNJAB
PARGAT SINGH, MLA, JALANDHAR, PUNJAB
SUDHIRENDAR SHARMA, THE ECOLOGICAL FOUNDATION, NEW DELHI