Mission on Sustainable Habitat (MSH) contrary to Kyoto Protocol, Environment Ministry’s White Paper & Supreme Court’s Order
NAPCC & White Paper recommends Biological Treatment, MSH suggests Incineration of Waste
Shifting a Hazardous Plant Does Not Make it Non-Hazardous
July 26, 2011 New Delhi
Incinerator Alternatives Committee (IAC) and ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) reject the recommendations of National Mission on Sustainable Habitat (NMSH) on incineration of waste. Contrary to the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) and White Paper of Environment Ministry, NMSH is suggesting a technology that emits persistent organic pollutants, green house gases and heavy metals.
NMSH notes that 42 million tones of municipal solid waste is generated daily in the urban areas in the country, which is not segregated at source and mixed waste is being dumped in to the low lying areas in and around the towns. Municipal waste comprises 30 per cent -55 percent of bio-degradable (organic) matter, 20 per cent-35 per cent inert matter and 5 per cent -15 per cent recyclables. It rightly suggests that organic fraction of municipal solid waste can be profitably converted into useful products like compost (organic manure) but its recommendation for energy production through waste to energy based on Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF)/Pelletisation and Pyrolysis/Plasma Gasification-a co-incineration process is highly misplaced. It is right in stating that incineration is difficult due to low calorific value and high moisture content in the waste at page no. 31 of the 114 page Mission document prepared by Union Ministry of Urban Development.
The composition of the waste and its chemical characteristics create a compelling logic against waste incineration either through RDF or any other incineraton technology. Indian municipal waste has 25.2 % moisture content and 23.4 % organic matter and 40.03 % ash and inert matter. In such a scenario, if the waste to energy incinerators aren’t merely subsidy cornerining initiatives, one does not what it is.
Union Ministry of Urban Development must not allow Union Ministry of New & Renewable Energy to subvert and distort waste management through its obsession with waste incineration which is one of the sources of green house gases as per Annexure A of Kyoto Protocol.
Residents of Delhi’s Narela-Bawana, Gazipur, Timarpur and Okhla fear imminent public health disaster from the Dioxins emitting waste to energy incinerators in Delhi. Delhi High Court has fixed 29th August as the next date for the hearing of Writ Petition (Civil) 9901/2009 in a related matter. These proposed plants are a toxic legacy of A Raja’s tenure as Union Environment Minister and Rakesh Mehta, the former Chief Secretary, Delhi Govt.
Delhi’s waste to energy incinerator plants are proposed in violation of the Supreme Court’s order dated 6th May, 2005 wherein it said, “…we hope that till the position is clear, the Government would not sanction any further subsidies.” It is noteworthy that on 15th May, 2007, the Court’s order “permit (s) Ministry of Non-conventional Energy Sources (MNES) to go ahead for the time being with 5 pilot projects chosen by them” but it is noteworthy that this refers specifically to bio-methanation technology. MNES is renamed as Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE). It has been revealed through RTI that neither the proposed Delhi’s waste to energy incinerator projects one of those 5 pilot projects nor is it based on the recommended technology.
Earlier, government agencies misled Delhi High Court at the behest of the company. It was in March 2009 that Writ Petition (Civil) No. 9901 of 2009 which was initially dismissed on 12th August, 2009 because of misrepresentation of facts by A S Chandiok Additional Solicitor General. The court later found that it was misled earlier which had led to it dismissing the petition. The Petition was restored and the bench headed by the Chief Justice, Delhi High Court in an order dated 15th January, 2010 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.” Thus, these projects are in manifest violation of the court order.
Notwithstanding such facts of the case, the matter has been listed some 11 times before the High Court but there has not been a single hearing in the matter because the respondents appear to be engineering delay in the verdict so that the waste incinerator plant get constructed and they can present a fait accompli to the court. It seems to be an attempt to outwit and second guess the court’s order even before the hearing starts.
Delhi High Court on 18th July asked Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) to conduct a joint inquiry about India’s first waste-to-energy plant and file a report on the allegations that it posed health risks to citizens. The Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Sanjiv Khanna ordered, “A joint report be submitted by the DPCC and the CPCB after an inquiry of the site of the energy plant about the alleged risks posed to citizens”. Counsel for petitioners sought an order to restrain the Jindal Company from constructing the plant. Although, the court said, “The operator must obtain consent to operate from the pollution control board before it can start functioning.” It is a bizarre case where the company has got a consent-to-operate letter on January 20, 2010 even before the plant is ready.
Standing counsel for the Delhi government and for the DPCC did the unthinkable. He shared a note of reply prepared for submission in the Court with a newspaper wherein he claimed that there no “complaints or proof about adverse effects health on the people and surrounding environment” unmindful of the public health disaster in Gandhumguda , Peeranchery Panchayat, Ranga Reddy district, Andhra Pradesh (not Hyderabad as is being claimed). Even Union Environment Minister in a letter dated 1st April, 2011 wrote to Delhi Chief Minister stating “there has been a violation of a basic condition stipulated in the environmental clearance.
A Project Feasibility Report dated November 2010 by Jindal’s Timarpur Okhla Waste Management Pvt Ltd reveals that there has at least been three amendments made to the environmental clearance given for processing of 1950 tons for 15 MW dated 21st March, 2007, it was amended on 9th May, 2007 for processing of 1950 tons for 16 MW and now for processing of 2050 tons for 20.9 MW. A MNRE order reads: “Projects for power generation from MSW through a two-stage process involving production of RDF by processing of MSW and it’s combustion for generation of power are proposed to be taken up in a fast track mode. …The developers will be selected on the basis of a bid for minimum amount of financial assistance (or ‘viability gap’ funding) within an overall ceiling of Rs 1.50 crore per MW.” Clearly, amendments appear to be made to gain this assistance even as the stay by the Hon’ble Supreme Court on sanction of any further subsidies for projects on energy recovery from Municipal Solid Wastes continues to be in force, in manifest contempt of court.
In the light of the Supreme Court order and the letter of the Union Environment Minister, TWA has written to MNRE asking it withdraw or modify its letter (No.10/3/2005-UICA) to refrain from promoting polluting technologies like incinerators.
Hon’ble Supreme Court is quite categorical in saying, “The Committee has recommended that projects based on bio-methanation of MSW should be taken up only on segregated/uniform waste unless it is demonstrated that in Indian conditions, the waste segregation plant/process can separate waste suitable for bio-methanation. It has opined that there is a need to take up pilot projects that promote integrated systems for segregation/collection/ transportation and processing and treatment of waste. In view of the report of the Committee and having regard to the relevant facts, we modify the order passed by this Court earlier and permit Ministry of Non-conventional Energy Sources (MNES) to go ahead for the time being with 5 pilot projects chosen by them, keeping in view the recommendations made by the Expert Committee and then take appropriate decision in the matter.” Despite this Delhi Government has erred in supporting illegal waste to energy incinerators in Delhi which is contrary to the Hon’ble Court’s order.
The Okhla waste to energy plant based on hazardous incinerator technology is being set up by Timarpur-Okhla Municipal Solid Waste Management Company Pvt. Ltd (TOWMCL), 100 % subsidiary of O P Jindal Group’s Jindal ITF Urban Infrastructure Ltd amidst bitter protest from residents, environmental groups and waste pickers. This plant is based on Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC) patented technology for incineration of Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) made of municipal solid waste. The project was due to start on August 2006 and get completed in April 2008 but remains mired in several controversies. TIFAC is under Ministry of Science & Technology. A paper in journal Theoretical and Empirical Researches in Urban Management, titled URBAN INDIA AND CLIMATE CHANGE: MITIGATION STRATEGIES TOWARDS INCLUSIVE GROWTH recommends “Composting and Recycling may be opted as suitable rather than mechanism of incineration or energy generation.” It has been published by Graduate School of Environmental Studies, Seoul National University, South Korea.
While bulldozing such manifestly hazardous technologies down the throat of residents of Delhi, MCD’s Feasibility Study and Master Plan for Optimal Waste Treatment and Disposal for the Entire State of Delhi is ignored. The Master Plan 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. Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) is a tried, tested and failed technology. 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.”
Unmindful of the fact that Asian Development Bank has withdrawn from the Okhla waste incinerator plant, it is sad that World Bank has announced to take up Okhla’s waste incineration plant as a case study at the C40 Cities Mayor’s Summit, held in Sao Paulo in Brazil from May 31 to June 2, 2011 in the presence of Delhi government’s Chief Secretary P.K. Tripathi. This is being presented as an endorsement of the polluting plant by the vested interests. A presentation by National Institute of Bank Management, Pune titled Sustainable Development: An Indian Perspective and Role of Banks states “Incineration considered unsuitable due to high moisture content of waste”. World Bank should take note of it and recommend against such hazardous technologies which emit unmnageable toxic emissions that poison our food chain.
Reminding the concerned people that “Distancing the population at risk” from the plant using hazardous technology “is an improbable solution to the question of risk”, IAC and TWA disapprove of Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) approach in dealing the imminent public health hazards from incinerators by merely seeking alternative locations for the proposal. Delhi Chief Minister’s proposal to shift polluting plants from one site to another is uncalled for because shifting a polluting plant to another location does make it non-polluting.
It must be noted that Union Minister of Environment & Forests’ publication titled ‘White Paper on Pollution in Delhi with an Action Plan’ 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.”
Unmindful of and oblivious of the composition of Indian waste, which has a low calorific value and is hence unsuitable for electricity-generation, MNRE and Delhi Government had for quite a long time experimented with incineration technologies despite consistent failures against the cardinal principles of waste management at considerable human cost.