Delhi: Waste-to-energy plants face opposition from people in vicinity

The city has three large-scale waste-to-energy plants. The plants at Timarpur-Okhla and Ghazipur use 1,300 tonnes of municipal solid waste each to produce 16 MW and 12 MW of electricity, respectively.

Waste management experts and the National Green Tribunal (NGT) have found waste-to-energy plants the simplest solution to tackle the increasing garbage pile-up in the city. While converting the city’s waste to electricity does seem a feasible solution, several residents near these plants have complained about their “negative impact” on health and even filed cases against the operation of these plants.

The city has three large-scale waste-to-energy plants. The plants at Timarpur-Okhla and Ghazipur use 1,300 tonnes of municipal solid waste each to produce 16 MW and 12 MW of electricity, respectively.

The Narela-Bawana site, set up in 2013, was dormant for three years as the North corporation and the company the project was outsourced to were unable to arrive at a revenue sharing agreement, say officials. The plant got a push when the NGT asked authorities to speed up work due to the poor conditions at the landfills. The plant is likely to start functioning in June. It will be the biggest such plant in Delhi, using 1,300 tonnes of waste per day to produce 24 MW of power.

The Ghazipur plant has been operational on a trial basis for months, but has not yet started selling electricity to discoms because an approval from the Delhi Pollution Control Committee is pending. The plant is a public-private partnership between the Delhi government and IL&FS Environmental Infrastructure Services Ltd. The operators of the plant point to “a successful” Refuse Derived Fuel unit. The plant is adjacent to the Ghazipur landfill. According to Yogendra Mann of the East corporation, it has air pollution control technology acquired from a Belgian company.

Delhi: Why landfill expansion is easier said than done

While the plant is situated near the landfill in accordance with the Municipal Solid Waste Management Rules, it is uncertain whether it is at a distance of 6 km from residential areas — another criteria that such plants have to fulfill. Residents of the nearby DDA flats in Ghazipur have written to the National Human Rights Commission and moved the NGT against the “air and noise pollution” the plant has caused in the area.

A spokesperson for the plant, however, says, “The emissions from the plant are far cleaner than the prevailing air. An independent third-party test has verified that the PM emission from the plant chimney is 9.4 ppm, which is over 30 times cleaner than the ambient air at the dump site.”

Similarly, the plant in Okhla, which has been operational since 2012, has come under fire from residents of Sukhdev Vihar. Residents of the DDA colony have moved the High Court and the NGT against the plant and alleged various violations.

U C Bahri, a resident of the colony and a scientist whom the NGT authorised to be a part of an inspection of the plant along with Central Pollution Control Board members, says, “The plant is located within 150 metres of the boundary wall of Sukhdev Vihar DDA Colony, and is in violation of the Municipal Waste Handling Rules of 2000 which require such plants to be integral to a landfill.”

Bahri adds, “There is no landfill at Sukhdev Vihar and the nearest one is at Tughlaqabad, about 6 km away. The plant operator has claimed… the plant is situated 6 km from Sukhdev Vihar. This claim is false, and can be easily verified. Instead, the plant is situated close to well-established residential areas like Sukhdev Vihar, Sarita Vihar, Jasola, Jamia Nagar, Haji Colony, New Friends Colony and Maharani Bagh.”

The plant is also situated 1.7 km from the Okhla Bird Sanctuary, a point that has also been observed by the NGT, says Bahri. Fortis Escorts, Holy Family and Apollo Indraprastha hospitals have opposed the plant’s operation and have even written to the Prime Minister’s Office on the issue. Residents have complained of respiratory problems and eye irritations.

Residents of Sukhdev Vihar recently filed a complaint with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change against the Okhla waste-to-energy plant for making “false claims” about the technology used to earn carbon credits. The complaint, filed through lawyer Rakesh Matwa, alleges “serious deviation from approved and validated technology”.

The complaint states that government agencies have informed the NGT that bio-methanation and Refuse Derived Fuel units do not exist at the plant. The complaint says the operators of the plant have claimed they exist to get validation for claiming carbon credits. About 2,000 tonnes of unsegregated waste is being incinerated every day at the Okhla plant, according to the complaint.

While the government gears up to get more such plants up and running, residents near the existing plants continue to file cases and write to authorities against them.

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