What a waste

The Union government's move to invest in waste-to-energy technologies draws flak from many quarters

Published: Friday 15 September 2000

there is growing concern over the new wave of waste-to-energy technology being adopted by the Union ministry for non-conventional energy sources ( mnes ). In this technology, waste is burnt at very high temperatures to produce energy. Health experts, however, warn that the burning of waste could lead to the formation of dioxins -- one of the most dangerous chemicals known to humans which has been linked with cancer. At least 11 waste-to-energy projects have been proposed in India.

At a workshop held in New Delhi on August 8, Sunita Dubey of Toxics Link, a Delhi-based non-governmental organisation, said: "These technologies will create more problems than they can solve." Neil Tangri working with Multinationals Resource Center at Washington, dc, says that "the risk of getting cancer from dioxins is 10 times higher than reported in 1994." Moreover, there are no emission standards for waste-to-energy plants in India and the mnes has chosen to ignore this issue.

There are many reasons why waste-to-energy technologies are not suitable for India. Waste generated in India has a low calorific value and is largely organic, thus not fit for burning. Since, it will be difficult for waste to burn on its own, mnes plans to add fuel to make it burn.

Experts feel that these technologies are not suitable for India because of its high costs. Waste-to-energy plants are the most expensive form of waste management equipment known in the world: recently-built plants in Japan and the Netherlands cost around us $700 million each. But no one seems to know where is the money going to come from. The ministry is offering huge subsidies to multinational companies to finance the project. But given the slump worldwide, there are not many takers for the project.

In many countries, these projects have been wound up and they are now being dumped in India. Consider this: usa has not built a waste-to-energy plant for past 5 years and there are no new proposals either. Canada also has not built one in the last 12 years, and the proportion of waste being burnt in Europe is gradually dropping.

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