Say studies have shown that Indian waste is unfit for the purpose
With the fear of losing their means of living looming over them, waste pickers from across the country have opposed Delhi government’s plan to install three waste to energy plants in the city.
“How can the proposed energy generation of 40 MW justify the loss of 350,000 jobs,” asks Dharmendra Yadav, general secretary of All India Kachra Sharamail Mahasang (AIKSM) which organised a state-level meet of waste pickers on December 22.
“The companies that have been allotted the charge of waste collection are being given money and concessions to pretty much do what the waste pickers were doing. Why cannot the government find a way of integrating these people (see Misery stricken) into the system and providing them with skills that will help them live a dignified life?” asks Yadav.
The three plants at Ghazipur, Okhla and Narela-Bawana have already been approved and are at various stages of clearances and construction “It is estimated that all the three plants will require 7, 300 tonnes of waste per day to produce the projected amount of energy leaving only about 1,200 tonnes of waste to share between private contractors and waste-pickers,” says Gopal Krishna of Toxicswatch, a research advocacy group. Delhi municipal solid waste is said to be around 8,000 tonnes per day. The Okhla plant–under litigation–is proposed to treat 2,050 tonnes of waste, the one in Ghazipur is proposed to burn 1,300 tonnes while the one in Narela-Bawana is meant for 4,000 tonnes of waste.
The city’s municipal authorities have, since 2005, been systematically handing over garbage collection to private companies. These companies have been given contract for collection, segregation and disposal of waste in 12 different zones of the city.
The companies operating the waste-to-energy plants like Jindal, have also been given a nine month concession period, inclusive of the implementation period of 12 months from the date of signing the contract. The Jindal group gets a subsidy of Rs 2 crore for the production of each MW of electricity for their two plants at Timarpur and Okhla.
Yadav says that the environmental hazards of incinerating waste to generate power have been long been debated. Studies have shown that Indian waste is unfit for waste to energy plants. “Look at the Timarpur plant itself, even government records show that the plant was operational for barely nine days,” he says.
Even experts question the move. They say the technology being used in the plants is the same as that of Timarpur. But) Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB refutes the claims. It says there are differences. The Timarpur plant was based on incineration not coupled with energy recovery, they say. Now energy recovery is a mandatory in all new plants after the Municipal Solid Waste rules came into force in 2000. The new plants are based on gasification and incineration coupled with energy recovery.
Also, Indian municipal solid waste consists of 40 per cent biodegradable waste, 40 per cent inert material like dust and debris. After removal of hazardous material, only 20 per cent of the total waste is left for use in these plants. “The main basis of these waste-to-energy plants can be brought under question as the calorific value of Indian waste is very low,” says Krishna. It is claimed that the calorific value of Indian waste is between 600 to 800 kilo calories. The requirement for waste to energy plants is between 1,000 to 1,200 kilo calories.
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