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Jindal’s power plant causing health crisis in residential area, High Court adjourns case for umpteenth time

Written By Krishna on Wednesday, September 12, 2012 | 4:19 AM

Press Release

Jindal’s power plant causing health crisis in residential areas, High Court adjourns case for umpteenth time

Union Environment Minister Misleads Parlaiment, Ecological lawlessness unfolding in national capital with impunity

Untested, unapproved Chinese incinerator technology violates laws

September 12, 2012, New Delhi: Amidst bitter opposition from residents, waste pickers and environmental groups a Writ Petition (Civil) NO. 9901/2009 in the Delhi High Court against the power plant by Delhi’s 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 came for hearing in Court No. 1 of Acting Chief Justice Arjan Kumar Sikri and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw on September 4, 2012 but was adjourned once again for the umpteenth time since 2009. The next date of hearing is on October 19. In the Supreme Court a related matter [Writ Petition (Civil) 888/1996] in which there was an order passed putting a stay on power plants based on waste incineration, is listed for hearing on October 1, 2012.

The 31 page report of the Union Environment & Forests Ministry constituted Technical Experts Evaluation Committee of Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on the Timarpur-Okhla Waste to Energy Incinerator Plant has condemned the Timarpur-Okhla Waste to Energy Incinerator Plant by JITF Urban Infrastructure Limited (Jindal Ecopolis) has violated every rule in the rule book including environmental clearance conditions. It revealed to the Experts Committee in September 2011 that it is using untested and unapproved Chinese incinerator technology in complete violation all laws and environmental clearance of 2007 including its own project design document and environment impact assessment report. Chinese technology provider is from Hangzhou New Century Company Ltd of Hangzhou Boiler Group. The critique of the report is attached.

But Union Minister for Environment & Forests, Jayanthi Natarajan stated in Rajya Sabha that although “complaints were received against the incineration of municipal waste and its likely harmful effects on the air quality and health of people in the Sukhdev Vihar/Okhla area due to the emissions from Waste-to–Energy plant at Okhla… on four occasions out of ten, levels of Particulate matter (PM) exceeded the standard of 150 mg/Nm3” however “the Minister said that as per the Central pollution Control Board, the technology being used by the Waste-to-Energy plant at Okhla is as specified in the Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000.” This is far from truth as is evident from the CPCB’s report which is now in public domain.

In the report, Dr A B Akolkar, Director, CPCB emphasized that as per Municipal Solid Waste (Management & Handling) Rules ‘biodegrdable waste’ is to be treated using biological method rather than deriving RDF or by incineration as is being done by Jindal Ecopolis. This clearly demonstrates that the Timarpur-Okhla Waste to Energy Incinerator Plant violates the Municipal Solid Waste (Management & Handling) Rules framed under Environment Protection Act, 1986.

In the Writ Petition (Civil) No. 9901 of 2009 in Delhi High Court, legal officials like Mr A S Chandiok Additional Solicitor General and Standing Counsel for the Delhi Government and for the Delhi Pollution Control Committee, Najmi Waziri has been misleading and misrepresenting facts about waste to energy plants in Andhra Pradesh by saying that “the Refuse Derived Fuel incineration technology was already in use at Hyderabad and Vijayawada”. The fact is that there is no plant in Hyderabad. The plant that became functional as per legal officials now stands defunct is in Shadnagar, Mahboobnagar district of Andhra Pradesh. On 18th July, 2011, Delhi High Court asked CPCB and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) to conduct a joint inquiry about India's first waste-to-energy plant and file a report on the allegations that it posed health risks to citizens. "A joint report be submitted by the DPCC and the CPCB after an inquiry of the site of the energy plant about the alleged risks posed to citizens," ordered a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Sanjiv Khanna, Delhi High Court. This has not been done so far. A bizarre situation has emerged because the arguments for ‘Refuse Derived Fuel incineration technology’ that was advanced by the law officers is 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.

There have been incessant demonstrations and protest rallies against this project. There is an ongoing campaign against it. The plant that has been built despite protest is 150 m from the residential areas. The area has a bird sanctuary, a university and three hospitals within a radius of 10 kilometres. All will be adversely affected by toxic fumes of the plant. The idea of waste to energy plants which is based on a tried, tested and failed incineration technology in Okhla.

MCD, Delhi government and central government has shown unpardonable callousness towards hazardous emissions from municipal incinerators that cause serious environmental and health problems both to people living near them and thousands of kilometres from the source. These projects are destroying the livelihood of about 3.5 lakh waste recycling workers and valuable resource material for compost that is required to be treated by composting/anaerobic digestion/vermin composting/other biological processing for stabilization as per Municipal Solid Waste (Management & Handling) Rules.

Representatives of GTZ (German Technical Cooperation) led by Dr. Juergen Porst, Senior Advisor have stressed the need for a Disaster Management Plan in the very first meeting of the CPCB’s Technical Expert Committee, which is annexed to the CPCB’s report. But this does not find mention in the recommendations of the 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.

The Review of Technical Evaluation by Anant Trivedi, Member, Technical Evaluation Committee, CPCB reads: "The Okhla plant has a capacity of 2050 tpd of domestic waste input. However the plant design allows upto 10,000 tpd of input for incineration. Toxic bottom ash quantity produced will be 20-30% of input. This amounts to at least 410 tpd rising to a maximum of 3,000 tpd. Additionally there will be toxic flyash of about 10% of the bottom ash.None of the landfill sites have the capacity to take in so much toxic waste and mulba has been dumped every where including all public spaces." He asks, "so what is proposed to safeguard public health from this toxic substance?

The report apprehended that the information that is submitted to the experts committee of CPCB might be used in the on-going case in the Delhi High Court. It makes a shocking revelation that although High Court has 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 the technical experts committee, non-cooperative approach of the senior officials of Timarpur-Okhla Waste to Energy Incinerator Plant was condemned on August 11, 2011. 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. Prof. T R Sreekrishnan, Department of Biochemical Engineering and Biotechnology 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.

CPCB report steers clear of the fact that fiscal incentives for projects of power generation from MSW through new technologies violates Supreme Court’s Order: The court has put a stay on subsidy for waste to energy projects except 5 pilot projects based on Biomethanation technology. It has come to light that none of Delhi’s three projects are based on biomethanation technology and are not the pilot projects approved by the court. The Timarpir-Okhla project is getting incentives from the government although the apex court has put a stay on subsidy. Although the court’s order applies to Delhi’s other waste to energy incinerator projects it is functioning with impunity.

A Fact Finding team visited the plant site in Andhra Pradesh of SELCO International Ltd’s Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) incineration technology based waste to energy project at Elikatta village, Shadnagar Mandal, Mahboobnagar District, Andhra Pradesh and found it to be lying in defunct, rusting and abandoned condition where cows were seen grazing in the dilapidated factory premises. It is the same plant which was cited as a successful plant in the High Court to advocate Okhla’s power plant.

Earlier, Asian Development Bank (ADB) withdrew from this Rs 200-crore power project at Okhla in south Delhi. The bank had promised about Rs 10 crore to the plant under the Asia Pacific Carbon Fund. ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) had written to the ADB. In a reply, ADB informed: “Asia Pacific Carbon Fund is no longer associated with TOWMCL integrated waste-to-energy project in Delhi and no funds were released to this project” besides that it has also decided to stop providing technical assistance to the project.

A site visit by social and environmental researchers and activists like Leo F. Saldanha, Benny Kuruvilla, Ravindranath, Afsar Jafri, Sumesh Mangalashery and Gaurav Dwivedi who were in the national capital for a meeting on International Financial Institutions revealed the close proximity of the residential colonies to the hazardous plant which is belching out a cocktail of toxic smoke in the households. The survey team took testimonies from the residents who are suffering from the adverse impact of industrial smoke in the houses on August 12, 2012.

For Details: Gopal Krishna, Convener, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb: 9818089660, Email: krishna1715@gmail.com, Web: toxicswatch.blogspot.com Okhla Anti-incinerator Committee, http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/ghoslaokhla
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