Ignoring Residents, Sheila Dikshit Flags Dioxins Emitting Plant
June 26, 2010, New Delhi: Disregarding Supreme Court’s order, unmindful of the adverse order of the Delhi High Court and the fact that the matter is sub judice and ignoring the concerns of the residents, Sheila Dikshit Delhi’s Chief Minister laid the foundation stone for a polluting waste to energy plant today in the national capital to produce electricity from wastes.
In an open letter (see below) to the Chief Minister which has also been sent to the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) and Union Ministry of Environment & Forests, the residents said, “This plant will emit large quantities of hazardous and toxic emissions (such as dioxins and furans) due to burning of Municipal Solid Waste, and will profoundly affect the health of the people living in the surrounding areas and environment for all times to come in future.”
Scientists investigating the effects of Agent Orange in Vietnam have found that people living in the areas where USA had used it as a chemical weapon have the highest blood levels of its poisonous chemical dioxin ever recorded in the country. Agent Orange, which has the dioxin (TCDD – short for 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin) as one of its constituents, was last used in 1973. Scientists from the US led by Prof. Arnold Schecter of the University of Texas published his findings wherein he observed that Dioxins causes cancers and problems with reproductive development, the nervous and immune systems.
Sheila Dikshit government and MNRE are pretending ignorance when the facts are clear that recycling creates six to ten times more jobs than incinerating as is envisaged in the project. By recycling waste valuable materials are recovered and hazardous pollution is prevented.
Chief Minister has turned a blind eye to Delhi High Court order which led to an inquiry by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) to conduct an inquiry into the failure of the Timarpur plant that was also based on incineration technology (namely Refuse Derived Fuel) and the ‘White Paper on Pollution in Delhi with an Action Plan’ prepared by Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, the Chief Minister has been misled in to promoting it.
The White Paper says, “The experience of the incineration plant at Timarpur, Delhi and the briquette plant at Bombay support the fact that thermal treatment of municipal solid waste is not feasible, in situations where the waste has a low calorific value. A critical analysis of biological treatment as an option was undertaken for processing of municipal solid waste in Delhi and it has been recommended that composting will be a viable option. Considering the large quantities of waste requiring to be processed, a mechanical composting plant will be needed.” (see below Incinerator: Myths and Facts)
Even Municipal Corporation of Delhi’s own Feasibility Study and Master Plan for Optimal Waste Treatment and Disposal for the Entire State of Delhi of March 2004 says, “Incineration of RDF is considered waste incineration.” (Page 25, Appendix D, Technology Catalogue). It also says the costs of RDF are often high for societies with low calorific value because energy is used to dry the waste before it becomes feasible to burn it.
In fact the Master Plan Report (2020) of Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) itself says,... “RDF is often an option when emission standards are lax and RDF is burned in conventional boilers with no special precautions for emissions.” One is surprised that despite this observation the report then goes on to suggest RDF. In fact the MCD report itself says that RDF is another form of incineration.
A 10 member Fact Finding Team visited the plant site on June 18, 2010 to take stock of the situation. Its preliminary findings are as follows: 1. RDF or incineration is completely inappropriate for Indian urban waste, which is largely biodegradable in nature. They extract a very high cost for the energy which they claim to generate. 2. The cost largely subsidised by various schemes, does not however include the environmental and health costs caused by their toxic releases, and which are externalized. 3. These technologies also use valuable resources which can be recycled, such as plastics and metals, and which support a massive recycling sector in the country. Indian municipal waste is fit for composting and bio-methanation treatment processes. 4. RDF is a thermal and combustion technology, mainly used to prepare waste for mass incineration. 5. If mixed waste is burnt will create problems of very toxic compounds such as dioxins and furans, heavy metals and other pollutants. 6. The calorific value for the waste comes from materials such as plastics and metals. 7. Plastics, especially chlorinated plastics such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) when combusted gives rise to these highly toxic pollutants and 8. PVC plastic combustion which is part of the mixed waste is banned in India by regulation both in the municipal and bio-medical waste handling rules.
The team comprised of Prof. Vikram Soni, Jamia Millia Islamia, Mehraj Dube, Associate Editor, NDTV, Ruhi Kandhari, Down To Earth, Anil Mishra, P K Nayyar, Sukhdev Vihar Residents Welfare Association, Sayantan Bewa, Centre for Science & Environment, Rakesh Bhatt, Ecology & Faith Forum, Sanjay Tiwari, Editor, www.visfot.com and Soumya Ray, lawyer, Supreme Court besides Gopal Krishna, an environmental health researcher. The final report would be shared in due course.
Earlier residents had not allowed the land hand over ceremony for the project that is proposed in the residential area of Okhla but unmindful of the public protest, New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) had permitted Jindal Urban Infrastructure Ltd to set up this plant. This company has secured a contract from New Delhi Waste Processing Company Limited, a joint venture between the Delhi Government and Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services Ltd. (IL&FS), to produce 16 MW power from 2, 000 metric tonnes of municipal waste. Jindal company’s misplaced claims to that effect that it will process nearly 2000 tonnes of waste, later it would be in a position to process as much as 4,000 tonnes based on obsolete technology will distort capital city’s waste management beyond repair.
The proposed polluting technology to deal with the waste from South Delhi, North West Delhi and East Delhi is fraught with disastrous public health consequences for which two companies namely, Timarpur-Okhla Waste Management Company (TOWMCL) and the Unique Waste Processing Company (subsidiary of IL&FS Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited have been set up.
Environmental groups, recycling workers and neighborhood residents are demanding closure of this combustion based project for a just transition from burning waste to building a better, cleaner future for the residents of Delhi. The transition is necessary in the face of issues such as the high cost of incineration, health effects of pollution in neighborhoods, and adverse climate change. Children suffer asthma rates three times the national average among other devastating health impacts.
The Power distribution company BSES Rajdhani Power Limited (BRPL) has signed a 25-year power purchase agreement with Timarpur-Okhla Waste Management Company Private Limited (TOWMCL) which is setting up the plant. The agreement was signed on January 20, 2010. Since March 2005, Rakesh Mehta, the present Chief Secretary in different capacities as Commissioner, Municipal Corporation Delhi (MCD) and later as Power Secretary, Delhi government, has been misled into promoting this dubious technology despite incontrovertible evidence against the technology and in spite of its explicit exclusion by the Prime Minister’s National Action Plan for Climate Change. (see attached letter below)
This plant is based on a hazardous technology that receives fiscal incentives from Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE). Notably, while 'whether or not energy from mixed municipal waste (with hazardous characteristics) is a driving concern' remains in dispute, the Prime Minister’s National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) categorically refers to Biomethanation technology, a biological treatment method for waste to energy instead of the Refuse Dervied Fuel (RDF) process which is a incineration technology and is a tried, tested, failed and Dioxins emitting technology.
As per the agreement, BRPL will procure 50 per cent of the 16 MW electricity to be produced by TOWMCL at its plant in Okhla in the vicinity of numerous residential areas such as Sukhdev Vihar, Hazi Colony, Gaffar Manzil and others. The plant being set up plans to process over 6,43,500 lakh metric tonnes or one third of Delhi's Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) per year generated in Delhi. The plant is scheduled to be commissioned in late 2010-2011. Around 1,300 Tonnes Per Day (TPD) of MSW will be sourced from the Okhla landfill site and 650 TPD from Timarpur. BRPL will procure power at a DERC approved competitive tariff rate, determined by a competitive bidding process. The agreement allows the promoters to sell the remaining 50 per cent electricity through a suitable open access mechanism.
Similar waste to energy project is coming up at Ghazipur as well. Earlier, in November, 2009 BRPL had signed a 25-year-agreement to procure 49 per cent of the electricity generated from garbage to energy project at Ghazipur. Chief Minister referred to this project as well.
Unmindful of the environmental and human cost the installation of proposed municipal solid waste (MSW) to energy plants in Ghazipur, Timarpur and Okhla, based on incineration of Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) is being pursued. This compelled the residents to move to the Delhi High Court. Earlier, the matter came up for hearing on December 11, 2009 wherein the petitioners (Sukhdev Vihar Residents Welfare Association & others) pointed out the polluting nature of the Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) Incineration technology and how both the central government and the Delhi government has misled the court. The court in its latest order has found that it was misled earlier which had led to it dismissing the petition which has now been restored and is scheduled for hearing on 22nd July before the Delhi High Court. In the presence of A.S. Chandihok, Additional Solicitor General, the bench headed by the Chief Justice, Delhi High Court in an order dated 15th January observed, “that the project in question” and “the location of the pilot project in Delhi was neither recommended by the Expert Committee nor approved by the Supreme Court.”
Delhi government and Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) must take cognizance of the sad plight at waste to energy site in Gandhamguda village in Ranga Reddy district of Andhra Pradesh (wrongly mentioned as Hyderabad project) which had the same technology. While the RDF incinerator was in operation, the village was covered by a heavy shroud of dark smoke. Originally a pelletisation plant with a furnace, After the plant came up, local doctors started detecting case of problems not found before — skin rashes, asthma, respiratory problems and some cases of stillborns. In a statement, Gandhamguda sarpanch D. Shakuntala had said: ‘‘Everyone in Peerancheru Gram Panchayat and its adjoining regions is now contaminated with harmful pollutants and symptoms are visible in the form of brain fever, vomiting, jaundice, asthma, miscariages, infertility.’’ Similar fate awaits residents of Delhi. For misplaced carbon revenue, it would not be appropriate to turn Delhi residents as guinea pigs.
MNRE has an incorrect policy of subsidizing hazardous technologies like proposed incinerators.
East Delhi Waste Processing Company Private Limited, a special purpose vehicle of the latter company is working for generating electricity at the Ghazipur site with the support of the Delhi Government. ‘New Delhi Waste Processing Company Private Limited’ a Joint Venture company of Delhi Government, IL&FS and APTTDC is supporting the project as well. The integrated municipal waste-processing complex is proposed to include a MSW processing plant at Ghazipur to produce Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) along with a power plant of 10 MW capacity where the RDF derived from the waste will be used as fuel to produce electricity. It is supposed to handle an average 1300 tons per day. It claims that 111,949 metric tonnes CO2 equivalent per annum of green house gases would be reduced. The crediting period for the project is from November 1, 2010 to October 31, 2020.
The Timarpur-Okhla carbon credit project which was registered on November 10, 2007 with a claim to reduce green house gases to the tune of 262,791 metric tonnes CO2 equivalent per annum. Unique Waste Processing Company, a subsidiary of Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (IL&FS) and Andhra Pradesh Technology Development Centre (APTDC) has incorporated Timarpur-Okhla Waste Management Company for developing the project for processing municipal waste and also to produce electricity at two locations namely Timarpur and Okhla, at the site at Okhla that is adjacent to defunct Okhla Sewage Treatment Plant (STP). TOWMCL is working with New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) and MCD. The Timarpur and Okhla plant will together be processing 650 tonnes per day of MSW at Timarpur site and 1300 tonnes per day of MSW at Okhla and claims to generate 16 MW of electricity.
The Timarpur-Okhla carbon credit project has been met with protest rally from the residents of Gaffar Manzil, Sukhdev Vihar and Hazi Colony together. Local politicians have also pledged their support for the protesters. Over 600 people walked through the colonies in a procession to stage their protest. The proposed plant is located inside dozens of densely populated residential colonies like Harkesh Nagar and Johori Farm, when the policy of the government is to shift or relocate all existing industries whatsoever from the residential areas. Besides this the site is in proximity of hospitals like Holy Family, Fortis-Escorts and Apollo. Inhabitants of colonies like Gaffar Manzil, Sukhdev Vihar and Hazi Colony are rightly alarmed at the prospect of a Dioxins emitting incinerator plant from coming up in their vicinity.
The move underway to install RDF plants in Delhi and several other state capitals is an environmentally unsustainable solution, which should be deemed unacceptable. If Delhi allows such toxic plant, it will set a bad precedent for other cities. It raises serious concerns about the health and safety of the citizens, which such a technology, will jeopardize.
*For Details:* Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance, Mb: 9818089660,
, Web: toxicswatch.blogspot.com
On behalf of RWAs: P K Nayyar, Mb: 9212111404, K K Rohtagi, Lawyer, Delhi High Court: 9810134860
1) For Open Letter to Delhi's Chief Minister click here.
2) For Myths and Facts click here.
3) For Letter to Rakesh Mehta click here.