Project developer, Jindal Urban Infrastructure Limited, could not answer queries satisfactorily at public hearing
Residents of Jamsher village in Punjab's Jalandhar district are up in arms against a proposed waste-to-energy plant in their village. At the public hearing on the proposed municipal solid waste management project held on Friday, the residents appeared well-informed and raised pertinent questions. But the district authorities as well as the company consultants were unable to answer the queries. When contacted, the company spokesperson refused to comment.
The Municipal Corporation of Jalandhar approved the solid waste treatment plant in Jamsher village earlier this year. The project is part of a larger project by the state government to manage waste in the state, wherein the state has been divided into 8 clusters; each cluster is meant to have solid waste treatment plant. All these plants like the Jamsher plant, are to be constructed through public-private partnership. In Jamsher, the tender for the plant was won by Jindal Urban Infrastructure Limited (JUIL), a company of M/s Jindal Saw Group Limited.
The proposed plant is meant to generate 6 MW of power by burning solid waste. Activists say this model of power generation is unsuitable to Indian conditions, as witnessed in similar plants which were started in other parts of the country. Gopal Krishna of non-profit Toxics Watch says says a similar plant set up in Delhi in the 1990’s was shut down because the garbage had about 60 per cent organic waste and large amounts of silt. “The waste of Jalandhar will not be any different. Incineration of such waste is inadvisable.”
Krishna, who was present at the public hearing adds that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report prepared by the company was faulty on many counts. It does not reveal how the project developer will deal with toxic ash which will contain heavy metals like mercury. Many studies show Indian garbage's calorific value is approximately 800 kilo calories per kg. This is mostly biodegradable and thus not suitable for plants that generate power by burning waste, says Krishna. He adds that while the EIA mentions the high organic content of Indian garbage, it claims that all garbage would first be dried. “This means they will actually end up using more energy than generating energy and at the same time release harmful chemicals like dioxin into the atmosphere.”
The draft EIA report says the proposed project consists of RDF (Refuse Derived Fuel) burning plant, biomethanation plant, power plant (optional) and composting facility. He adds, “if such unanimous informed action had been taken during the Sukhdev Vihar (south Delhi) plant's hearings, we would not be facing so much trouble.” A similar plant in Andhra Pradesh has been shut for the past three years.
The total cost of the integrated municipal solid waste processing facility in Jalandhar is estimated to cost Rs 99.21 crores and was to be made operational in a span of 14 months. The plant is designed to process 700 metric tonnes of municipal solid waste per day, which in turn will generate 260 tonnes of fluff—residue of the waste burnt. The plant is also designed to process 50 tonnes of green waste for producing biogas in a biomethanation plant and manure in a composting facility, per day. The biogas generated is expected to be about 2,750 to 3,000 Nm3/day and manure quantity is expected to be about 6 to 7 tonnes per day.
The project is located on six hectares is close to a densely populated area, including a dairy that is right next to the proposed site. The villagers at the hearing raised objections to the plant while highlighting the existing pollution in the area. Jamsher and its neighbouring villagers are plagued by water contamination and foul smell from the Jamsher drain and the sewerage treatment plant at Pholriwal.
Krishna adds, that the EIA report is vague. “For example, though the report says 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 refuse derived fuel.”
Toxics Watch also says that this project is a violation of the Supreme Court recommendations as in a White paper on Pollution, it has been underlined that Indian waste is suitable only for biological treatment methods. It violates the recommendation of Supreme Court's committee on waste-to-energy treatment that insists on segregation of waste at source. The power generated will be highly expensive. Experts suggest that it is 4 to 5 times costlier than the conventional electricity.
Officials not aware of environmental impact
At the public hearing chaired by Additional District Commissioner Sarojani Gautam, villagers from 12 adjacent villages showed up. Gautam says people were mostly not happy with the project. “The proceedings have been noted and will now be sent to higher authorities and then we will decide what action to take.” She adds that the company consultants present at the hearing were unable to answer villagers satisfactorily.
Janlandhar municipality's superintendent engineer A S Dhaliwal says the opposition is not to the waste treatment plant but to the technology to be used. He explains that the consultants faced a language barrier and that is why the villagers were not happy with the answers. He says municipal corporation officials present, himself included, were not aware of the “environmental fall-outs of this project” and would now wait to see whether a different technology can be used at the same site for a solid waste treatment plant. When asked about the queries of the villagers, he says people wanted to know the pollutants generated during incineration, the feasibility of such a plant. “They asked about any operational plant in the country but consultants were unable to give them any details.”
| EIA flawed
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