Okhla waste to energy plant: residents allege bias in inspections

Local commissioner appointed by green tribunal carrying out inspections when plant not running full capacity, say residents

 
By Soma Basu
Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

Residents of Sukhdev Vihar, who are opposing the Okhla waste to energy plant near the residential locality in South Delhi, are dissatisfied with the inspection being carried out at the plant under the direction of the  National Green Tribunal (NGT). The tribunal appointed an advocate as a local commissioner last week to carry out inspections at the plant after the residents had objected to the way in which a tribunal-appointed committee had carried out an earlier inspection. Residents now say that they are not being consulted by the new inspection panel which has been collecting samples when the 16 MW plant is not operating to its full capacity and does not pollute much. 

Asha Arora, member of Sukhdev Vihar Residents Welfare Association and Okhla Anti-incinerator Committee, said: “When we complained to NGT, a local commissioner was appointed. But the condition is still the same.” 

She said that the panel, including the local commissioner, has been collecting samples from the area. But the plant has not been operating to its optimum level for about a month. The plant was built by Timarpur-Okhla Waste Management Company private limited (TOWMCL), owned by the Jindal group. “The plant is not run continuously. For example, they run the plant for two hours then keep it shut for three hours before operating it again. In January this year, when they ran it to its full capacity, there was so much of ash. But now there is nothing. I don’t know what samples the panel has been collecting,” said Arora.

Earlier in March this year, the green tribunal bench headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar had formed a five member panel comprising four members from the government and one from Sukhdev Vihar Residents Welfare Association. It was to ascertain whether the Okhla plant was a threat to the environment and public health. The residents had earlier filed a public interest petition in the Delhi High Court in 2009, requesting that the plant be shut down since it had been releasing harmful dioxins into the air and toxic ash. The high court transferred the case to the green tribunal in January this year. 

The tribunal-appointed committee visited the residential area and collected samples of fly ash from rooftop of residential buildings and cars. 

Advocate Rahul Chaudhary was appointed the local commissioner for the inspection panel after the residents complained that the samples were collected without informing them and when the plant was not operating to its full capacity. The bench asked the panel to collect samples of ambient air as well as the stack emissions in the presence of the local commissioner, so that they know that the plant is functioning at its optimum capacity and also directed the panel to “note as to what was the power production capacity as per the record of the plant for one week immediately following his visit to the plant". Chaudhary said that the team is still in the process of collecting the samples and the date of next hearing could not be disclosed. He said that the “visits to the area are still not complete”.

Arora alleged that the team visited their locality to collect samples at 11 am on Sunday but did not consult any resident. “The case doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, and at the end of it all, the residents will have to face the health hazards,” she added. 

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