Scalding waste

By Parni Ray
Published: Wednesday 15 October 2008

Residents oppose waste-to-energy plant in Delhi

residents of Okhla in Delhi have come out against a proposed waste-to-energy (wte) plant in the area, saying it will put the health of about 200,000 people to risk and pollute their water tank 100 m from the site. On August 4, they stalled the transfer of land for the project based on the controversial technology that burns waste to produce energy, and, in the process, releases toxins in the environment.

Environmentalists and researchers advocate composting and bio-methanation techniques over thermal processes for treating municipal waste.

The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (mcd) plans to build not one but three wte plants in the capital city. Scheduled to come up over 7.3 hectares in the residential areas of Timarpur, Ghazipur and Okhla (Sukhdev Vihar) by 2010, the plants will use over one-third of the city's daily waste to produce refuse derived fuel, which in turn will be used for generating electricity.

mcd and the Timarpur Waste Management Company, which is building the plant in Timarpur, have also applied for carbon credits.

While burning waste breaks down hydrocarbons, the chemicals in the garbage either escape in the air or collect in the ash. This toxic ash, often used as landfill, leeches into the groundwater. Burning chlorinated substances at temperatures above 200C produces persistent organic pollutant dioxin, a carcinogen.

mcd officials say the possibility of toxic emissions is negligible. "The special design of the plant will keep all sorts of emanation from escaping. The leftover ash will be used for construction purposes and will not be left around to leech into the groundwater," says Subhash Arya, leader of the house, mcd.

Arya claims technological advancements in the recent past will ensure that the plant does not share the fate of the wte plant close to Hyderabad that shut down after it contaminated the groundwater (see 'All waste no energy', Down To Earth, March 31, 2007).

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