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Delhi Govt refuses to renew license of Synergy company’s bio-medical waste incinerator, High Court refuses relief to the Okhla plant

Written By mediavigil on Friday, May 29, 2015 | 4:10 AM

May 29, 2015: Following Delhi Government’s refusal to renew license of Synergy company’s bio-medical waste incinerator, Delhi High Court has refused relief to the Okhla plant. It termed company’s application for relief as infructuous, ineffective, unproductive and unfruitful.  

The case against Chief Secretary, Government of NCT of Delhi and Managing Director, M/s Synergy Waste Management Pvt Ltd was disposed off on 28th May, 2015 following closure of Bio-Medical Waste Incinerator located in the vicinity of DDA Flats, Sukhdev Vihar, Okhla, New Delhi due to expiry and non-renewal of its license after 18th May, 2015. In a remarkable move, Delhi Government had kept itself ready to face this situation. It illustrates how peoples’ resistance can compel the government to listen to them.

An Office Memorandum (OM) dated 15th May, 2015, Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) shows that the state government had planned for “redistribution of area among two common bio-medical waste treatment facilities (CBMWTFs) in Delhi, in the vent of closure of Synergy Waste Management Pvt Ltd. on 18.05.2015.” The OM was signed by Kulanand Joshi, Member Secretary, DPCC. The OM is attached. This was an outcome the meeting residents had with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

It is noteworthy that the attached Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)’s manifesto for Kalkaji had recognized the public health concerns emanating from this polluting plant and had promised to make efforts and struggle with Okhla residents against it.

Notably, Delhi High Court had re-ordered immediate closure of biomedical waste incinerator plant Sukhdev Vihar, Okhla while the Civil Contempt Petition No 102/2014 filed in Writ Petition (C) No. 6976 of 2008 against Chief Secretary, Govt. of NCT of Delhi and Managing Director, Synergy Waste Management Pvt Ltd in the matter of Dioxins emitting biomedical waste incinerator in Sukhdev Vihar, Okhla.

After Delhi High Court's judgment dated 15th January, 2013 established the adverse health impacts from the incinerator based on existing medical literature, the fate of M/s Synergy Waste Management Pvt. Ltd. (SWMPL) which operated Bio-Medical Waste Incinerator located in the vicinity of DDA Flats, Sukhdev Vihar, Okhla, New Delhi was sealed. This order had come in response a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed in 2008 seeking its closure. But when Chief Secretary, Government of NCT of Delhi and Contemnor no.1 and Neeraj Agarwal, Managing Director, M/s Synergy Waste Management Pvt Ltd, Contemnor No.2 did not comply with the order in contempt of this Court’s Judgment, a Civil Contempt Petition was filed. A review petition No. 111/2013 filed by the company was dismissed on 27th February, 2013.

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 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%".

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".

The struggle of residents and environmental groups is far from over. The judgment is quite relevant for the upcoming hearing in the National Green filed by the resident’s welfare association (RWA) of Sukhdev Vihar, Okhla against the municipal waste incineration power plant is being operated 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.

ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) has been demanding closure of waste incinerators plants because shifting a polluting unit of factory does not make it non-polluting. Responding to a letter of TWA Union Environment Minister, Prakash Javadekar has promised to look into the possibility of Bhopal like disaster due Jindal’s plant in Okhla operating admittedly in residential areas without any Disaster Management Plan using unapproved and untested Chinese technology.  

Meanwhile, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is pursuing 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 toxic threat from municipal waste incinerator plants in Okhla, Narela-Bawana and Ghazipur.

Notably, owing to public health concerns, Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister has visited the hazardous Dioxins emitting plants in Okhla and Ghazipur. It is high time the government in the national capital territory revised the tried, tested and failed approach adopted for waste management.    

For Details: Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb: 9818089660, 08227816731, E-mail: 1715 krishna@gmail.com, Web: www.toxicswatch.org

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