Okhla waste to energy plant: NGT notice on possible threat to bird sanctuary

Uttar Pradesh to now verify whether emissions from the plant are harmful to the environment and wildlife of Okhla Bird Sanctuary

By Soma Basu
Published: Monday 08 July 2013


The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has issued a notice to the department of environment of Uttar Pradesh to implead itself as a party to the case by Sukhdev Vihar Residents Welfare Association (SVRWA) against the Okhla waste to energy plant in South Delhi, operated by the Jindals group. The move follows complaint by residents that waste incineration at the plant poses a threat to the Okhla Bird Sanctuary on the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border. On the direction of the tribunal, Uttar Pradesh will now have to verify whether emissions from the plant are harmful to the environment and wildlife of Okhla Bird Sanctuary in Noida
The residents have been seeking closure of the municipal waste to energy incinerator, claiming that the plant has turned the air toxic and that toxic ash from the plant falls in the locality. 

Gopal Krishna of non-profit ToxicsWatch Alliance said that the plant should have been allowed only after inter-state consultations between governments of Delhi and Uttar Pradesh as the Okhla Bird Sanctuary in Noida is very close to the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border.

In the meanwhile, district forest officer of Gautam Buddha Nagar, B Prabhakar, visited the site and measured the distance of the sanctuary from the plant.  SVRWA claims that the plant has been built in violation of the Wildlife Protection Act and the Environment Protection Act. They also claim that the plant was constructed without informing the government of Uttar Pradesh and the residents of Okhla, Delhi and Noida in Uttar Pradesh.

This plant managed  by M/s Jindal Urban Infrastructure Limited (JUIL), a company of M/s Jindal Saw Group Limited, has been facing bitter opposition from various environmental groups, residents and waste pickers. The hazardous plant claims to use 2,050 tonnes of municipal waste to generate 20.9 MW of electricity.

In April this year, residents got air samples tested by an independent agency. According to the results of the two air samples taken on behalf of the residents in March 2013 by Chennai based Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), the fine particulate pollution (particulate matter 2.5 and below) levels were found to be at “life threatening levels and the presence of the toxic metal lead was at hazardous levels as per Indian Ambient Air Quality Standards.” 

Later in May, the local commissioner appointed by NGT to oversee investigations into pollution caused by waste incineration submitted a report which said that ash from the plant can be “truly hazardous”.

On June 22, in a letter to Jayanthi Natarajan, Union minister of environment and forests, residents of Okhla complained against the operation of municipal waste-based power plant within the eco-sensitive zone of the Okhla Bird Sanctuary and Wildlife Park and sought its immediate closure. 

They said that the plant falls within 2 km of the Okhla Bird Sanctuary and Wildlife Park. The plant does not have the mandatory clearances from the National Board for Wildlife. “It is our belief that such clearances will not be possible since the guidelines of the MoEF issued on 9th February, 2011 clearly prohibit the setting up of industries causing pollution (water, air, soil, noise etc),” the letter reads.  

They also cited MoEF guideline which states: “Where the boundary of a protected area abuts the boundary of another State/Union Territory, where it does not form part of any Protected Area, it shall be the endeavour of both State/Union territory governments to have mutual consultation and decide upon the width of the eco-sensitive zone around the Protected Area in question.”

Gopalkrishna claimed that in the case of Jindal’s power plant, neither Delhi state nor the Uttar Pradesh government has submitted the required proposals, let alone hold mutual consultations. 

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