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Incinerators Reveal Environmental Lawlessness in Delhi

Written By krishna on Sunday, March 27, 2011 | 9:52 PM

Note:ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)has been raising controversial "waste-to-energy (WTE)" incinerators that are proposed in Delhi since March 2005. Earlier, it has managed to stop at least 7 such hazardous plants in the country. These WTE projects in Delhi are meant for 62.2 MW of power at Okhla, Timarpur, Ghazipur and Narela-Bawana has been proposed. The plants at Okhla and Timarpur will generate 16 MW energy and Gazipur will generate 10 MW. The Narela-Bawana plant will generate 36 MW was mentioned in MCD's Budget of December 2010.

Complete Environment Impact Assessments (EIAs)of these life thretening pojects that reveal environmental lawlessness in Delhi are not available in public domain.

Gopal Krishna
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)

Waste-to-power plants upset MoEF


The setting up of three waste-to-power projects in Okhla, Timarpur and Gazipur to generate 41 MW of power in the NCR has raised queries from both the Supreme Court and the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF).

While the Supreme Court, in 2007, had given a ruling permitting the establishing of five pilot plants in the NCR quantifying they be based “only on biological treatment rather than incineration”. The MoEF in a white paper also states, “While the (Delhi) government claims that this plant will generate electricity, it will generate dioxins and other toxic emissions.”

The Delhi government however insists that these projects are registered under the Clean Development Mechanism of the UNFCC and will enable the government to earn credits on saved carbon emissions.

Mr Gopal Krishna, who heads the Toxics Watch Alliance, said while the city generates around 10,000 tonnes of waste per day, from which 50 per cent is organic, 30 per cent is recycable and 20 per cent is inert, “the organic waste is being composted and the recyclable waste is being managed by the city’s five lakh rag picker population.”

"Both the Central and state government should commit to maximising recycling as this helps in climate mitigation. It is also an inclusive planning process because it ensure that the city's five lakh rag picker population do not end up losing their livelihoods," Mr Krishna added.

Three hospitals located near the Okhla plant namely Apollo, Holy Family and Fortis Escorts have expressed their unhappiness at the incinerator unit being located close to their establishments.

A senior doctor in Apollo ssaid, "These plants are known to emit hazardous pollutants which can eventually enter the food chain. The state government must show greater sensitivity to the protests of the local public."

Activists o express apprehension that the setting up of incinerator technologies is a clear attempt to hand over the municipal solid waste management to private players.

"This is a major livelihood concern especially since rag pickers form a sizeable population in every city of the country," Ravi Aggarwal of Toxic Link pointed out.

With residents of the areas where these incinerators are located taking the protest to the street, PM Manmohan Singh has asked Delhi chief minister Shiela Dixit and environment minister Jairam Ramesh to look into this issue.


Hundreds of residents turn up at a rally against Okhla-Timarpur toxic plant
Asad/Sukhdev Vihar
This Sunday when many residents in Okhla were busy shopping or chilling in their homes some 500 residents from different colonies of Okhla assembled outside Sukhdev Vihar D.D.A Flats, Pocket A and B at 11 A.M to protest against a waste-to-energy project coming in the locality. The residents marched from there to Jamia Nagar till Kalindi Kunj to create awareness among others about the danger of such a project.

The convener of Toxics Watch Alliance, Gopal Krishna, told OKHLA TIMES: “We are strongly opposed to this project because of its long-lasting impact on the environment and health. The plant site is close to three major hospitals: Holy Family, Fortis-Escorts and Apollo Indraprastha. How can such a plant come in a residential area?” A local Congress party leader Amanatullah Khan also addressed the gathering.

Residents have been protesting against the plant since Rakesh Mehta, the chief secretary of Delhi government, signed a MOU in March 2005, said Krishna. “Though we are positive with the response we are getting from the residents but the Central and Delhi government are not taking notice of the development. We want this technology to be abandoned. This plant is coming in violation of the Supreme Court order,” he further added.

Earlier, some residents of Sukhdev Vihar, Jamia Nagar, Sarita Vihar, Maharani Bagh, New Friends Colony and Okhla had submitted a memorandum to union environment minister Jairam Ramesh, stating: “While there is overwhelming evidence that plants of these types produce toxic gases, residues and respirable particles, the Okhla plant is being set up barely 150m from the nearest established residences.”

Opposition party leaders of the Bharaitya Janata Party (BJP) are also supporting the residents' concern. In a letter dated June 27, 2008 to the Lt. Governor of Delhi, Tejender Khanna, BJP MP Vijay Kumar Malhotra said: “This plant would release various types of harmful gases which will certainly pose serious helath threat to the lives of surrounding residents.” This has been stated in a press release issued by the Okhla Anti-Incinerator Committee.

Residents want the government to bring an immediate stop to construction of the Rs 200-crore project that is expected to convert more than 1,000 tonnes of solid waste. From July onwards the waste would be converted into electricity. Some 8,000 tonnes of solid waste is produced in Delhi every day. Pressure is being mounted on the government to scrap the project.

Moved by residents' uprising, environment minister Jairam Ramesh had also written a letter to the chief minister Sheila Dikshit. It was after this that the CM had promised to call a meeting with residents and address their concerns.

Dikshit said: “I have received the letter. The government will not set up a hazardous plant, and to the best of my knowledge we have been extremely careful with the project. Since there are so many objections, I will call a meeting with residents as soon as the budget session of the assembly gets over. We can also consider a third party intervention in the matter. I will also write to Ramesh and ask if there are any experts he can recommend to study the proposal and suggest what steps should be taken.”

Mere words will not satisfy the residents, we want action against the plant, according to a local Md Anwar.


Green Schemes Turn Into White Elephants
BANGALORE, (IPS) - Several incinerator facilities that were supposed to turn waste into energy have proven to be white elephants that are now adding to the country’s pollution woes, instead of alleviating them.

"Massive waste-to-energy plant subsidies are ruining the waste management field in India," said Almitra Patel, a civil engineer from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston. "Companies are now using these subsidies to set up plants that fail." Solid waste experts are alarmed these facilities - which failed to work in the 1980s and 1990s - continue to exist.

Waste-to-energy (WTE) plants, are releasing toxic fumes because wastes are not being burned properly. Waste incineration technology - controversial in western countries - is even more toxic in India due to mixed, un-segregated wastes, which emit a medley of poisonous gases such as dioxins and furans when burned.

At Timarpur in New Delhi, a WTE incineration plant imported from the Danish firm Volund Milijotecknick in 2003 - which subsequently failed - has been resurrected, and another WTE incinerator is being built in Okhla. Activists are protesting violations of environmental procedures at the Timarpur plant, which is surrounded by a community of about 500,000.

In February 2011, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) withdrew funding to the plant under its Asia Pacific Carbon Fund, but the Timarpur Okhla Waste Management Company claims it will be able to reduce carbon emissions by 262,791 tonnes per year for the next ten years, and has filed for carbon credits. (ToxicsWatch Alliance was in correspondence with ADB and it revealed its decision to media)

WTE "works only on paper", said Mumbai-based Ragini Jain, who works on dry waste policy, explaining how Indian waste will not combust sufficiently to produce adequate electricity. Indian waste is mainly biodegradable compostable waste with high moisture content. When it arrives at the WTEs it is also mixed with non-biodegradable plastics, aluminium and similar substances - the wastes are not separated.

India set up solid waste management rules in 2000, making urban towns responsible for waste segregation and disposal, and recommending composting as the most suitable form of waste disposal after segregation.

The Solid Waste Rules of 2000 were set up after Patel petitioned the supreme court in 1996, claiming that the government was neglecting the responsibility of proper waste management. The court later appointed Patel head of a national committee on solid waste.

In 2005, Patel again filed a public interest lawsuit before the supreme court, petitioning the court to put a stay on government subsidies for all proposed and future WTE projects until the current plants had been adequately reviewed for feasibility.

The court ordered a stay on government subsidies for further WTEs, allowing only five of these projects to proceed for research and development purposes. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy however says there is no court ban on promoting further WTE projects.

India now has a reported 33 WTE projects in the works, of which several have the makings of financial corruption and administrative malfeasance, say NGO activists and waste management experts in Bangalore, New Delhi and Mumbai. (END)

Jamia students cry foul, protest toxic plant

New Delhi, March 27: Hundreds of citizens and students gathered at Jamia Nagar, opposite the Jamia Millia Islamia, today to register their protest against a giant municipal waste incinerator rapidly coming up in the Okhla area, contravening a Supreme Court order.

Students from Jamia also participated in the rally that followed the protest in Jamia Nagar.

Amanatullah Khan, a local Congress leader, said, "The toxic emissions from the plant of this type have been known to cause birth deformities, respiratory ailments and hormonal problems. However, in spite of representations from people belonging to different political parties, the Delhi government has continued to pursue construction of the plant promoted by Jindal Ecopolis. People are not going to take this quietly and will protest vehemently."

Khan said the whole Okhla area was being turned into a health and environment disaster zone through the misuse of the Okhla sewage treatment plant, the Okhla industrial effluent treatment plant and a common biomedical waste incinerator despite a court order a year ago, calling for its relocation.

Khan said, "There exists a sense of betrayal in the Jamia area because the Delhi government had failed to implement a Delhi High Court order to relocate a common biomedical incinerator which was causing serious health problems to the community. Today's rally is being held to highlight the fact that the residents' grievances are not being addressed."

Asha Arora, a local resident said, "Instead of looking after the welfare of the people, the government was creating problems. All of us will have to unite against this toxic plant till it is closed down." Delegations from Jamia Nagar, Haji colony, Sukhdev Vihar, Zakir Nagar and Gafar Manzil assembled at Batla House and were joined by the residents of nearby colonies before the march terminated at Okhla head.

A letter was also sent today to the minister of environment and forests (MoEF), Jairam Ramesh, protesting against the "highhandedness and environmental lawlessness barely 10 km from the seat of power of the great Indian nation."

Earlier, the residents of the colonies in the Okhla area had met the minister and complained to him that an incinerator was being set up without addressing the existing problems of the area arising out of gross misuse, such as denudation of a green buffer.

On March 23, a rally was held by hundreds of Delhi's waste pickers, demanding the scrapping of the waste-to-energy policy which affected their livelihood.

They had submitted a memorandum to the Lt-Governor.

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