Waste-to-energy plant raises stink

Sukhdev Vihar residents say plant won't solve waste problem, will impact people's health

By Ruhi Kandhari, Ravleen Kaur
Published: Thursday 22 July 2010

S C Mehra, a retired Air commodore from the Indian Air Force, misses his friends in South Delhi's Sukhdev Vihar locality. One and a half years
ago, he and his wife moved out of their house in Sukhdev Vihar when they could no longer stand the pollution from a bio-medical waste treatment
plant in Okhla. "I stayed there for 20 years. It was long enough time to make friends whose company you enjoy after retirement. But I am not so
lucky. The smoke was becoming unbearable day by day and everything we touched was coated with a black layer of soot," Mehra said.

Mehra and his wife are now living with their son in Gurgaon. The son shifted earlier to the satellite city in Haryana because of the
pollution. Like them, many other families too have moved out of the Sukhdev Vihar locality. Those who stayed back are having a bad time and
there is worse in store. A waste-to-energy plant is coming up in the area. The plant's construction started after Chief Minister Sheila
Dikshit laid the foundation stone for it on 26^th June. The 16 MW plant would generate energy from refuse derived fuel (rdf) or pellets made out
of waste.

A memorandum of understanding has been signed between the New Delhi Municipal Council, Andhra Pradesh Technology Development Corporation and Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Limited for a project, which includes the Okhla plant and a plant at Timarpur in North Delhi. Under the project, the Okhla plant, located 150 metres from residential areas like Haji Colony, Gaffar Manzil and Sukhdev Vihar, will handle both thermal as well as bio-degradable waste and generate bio-gas and methane gas. It is scheduled to be commissioned in late 2010-2011. The Timarpur plant will handle waste that can be burnt or thermal waste.

The Okhla plant, costing Rs 200-crore, will process over 6,43,500 lakh metric tonnes of waste in a year, which is one third of Delhi's municipal solid waste.

Residents of Sukhdev Vihar believe the Okhla plant won't solve Delhi's waste problem. Instead, it would impact people's health. "They say this is going to take care of the waste problem in Delhi. But worldwide, it has been proven that incineration is not the best way of disposing waste. And our waste does not have high calorific value which is why the last waste-to-energy plant built in Timarpur in the 1980s is lying waste. They are obviously downplaying the impact on the health of residents," a resident said on condition of anonymity.

The residents have filed a public interest petition in the Delhi High Court and the matter is sub judice. On 16^th May 2007, The Delhi High Court had said that the government should not grant subsidies to projects for generation of energy from municipal waste while giving the go ahead for five pilot projects to the Ministry of Non-conventional Energy Sources. The court on 15^th January 2010 found that the project in question was not one of the five pilot projects but still had been given a go-ahead by the state government. The pilot project's location in Delhi was not even recommended by the expert committee* *constituted by the Supreme Court to look into waste-to-energy projects. Other projects could have been taken up only after the pilot projects get implemented.

The Municipal Corporation of Delhi, responsible for disposing the city's garbage, recognises rdf technology results in emissions. "Why has government allowed such projects putting people residing in surrounding areas at risk," said P K Nayyer, a retired bank officer residing in Sukhdev Vihar. Officials refused to comment saying the matter is sub-judice.

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