Gopal Krishna is an activist and associated with ToxicsWatch Alliance, Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI), IMOWatch, MediaVigil & WaterWatch Alliance. He is also researching the corporate crimes in India after Independence. He can be contacted at krishna2777[at]gmail.com.
Dear Arvind Kejriwalji,
I am submitting five suggestions for the consideration of your government based on several years of work.
My suggestions are as under:
1. AAP Government should abandon hazardous waste incinerator based power plant in Okhla and adopt zero waste philosophy for decentralized management of municipal waste.
Delhi residents heaved a sigh of relief with the electoral defeat of BJP and Congress who vociferously supported the waste incinerator based power plant in Okhla, Narela-Bawana and Ghazipur.
We had met the environment minister of the AAP led Government at Delhi Secretariat on January 27, 2014 to apprise him of the scandal of the waste based power plant and shared documents which nail the lies of the company that runs the plant and the regulators. The minister had promised to stop the environmental lawlessness by the Okhla based waste incineration plant.
Even Shri Jairam Ramesh as the Environment Minister had written to then Smt Sheila Dikshit, Delhi Chief Minister confirming violations of environmental regulations but she did not pay heed to the bitter opposition to Okhla’s waste incinerator plant. This plant is based on an admittedly unproven Chinese technology located in Sukhdev Vihar amidst residential colonies and in the vicinity of a bird sanctuary, vegetable market, hospitals and educational institutions, which faces
bitter resistance from the residents, environmental groups and waste recycling workers. Environmental groups have been opposing it since March 2005 when Shri Rakesh Mehta was the Commissioner of Municipal Corporation of Delhi.
The residents have been demanding closure of the power plant by Delhi’s Timarpur-Okhla Waste Management Co Pvt Ltd (TOWMCL) of M/s Jindal Urban Infrastructure Limited (JUIL), a company of M/s Jindal Saw Group Limited. The Jindal’s plant is meant only for 2050 tons of municipal waste. Despite 28 dates of hearing at Delhi High Court and more than a dozen hearing at the National Green Tribunal (NGT), residents continue to face toxic ash fall with no relief in sight.
It must be noted that an incineration based waste to energy plant in the suburban Jiading district, China exploded at 3.00pm on December 5, 2013 killing at least one person and injuring at least 5 persons. The explosion happened at an incineration based waste to energy plant with a capacity of 1,500 tons per day.
Like Delhi’s waste, Chinese waste also has low calorific value and unfit for burning to generate energy but incinerator technology companies have bulldozed their technologies for energy generation and waste management. Like Jiangqiao Incineration Plant, Okhla plant also boasts of having won awards that disregard the human cost of such hazardous plants. Waste incinerator technology is a fake solution and exposes the hollowness of carbon trade as it takes governments for a ride by making them adopt proposals for building landfills in the sky. Chinese incinerator technology and its ilk face relentless opposition across the globe. Smt. Sheila Dikshit’s initiatives have distorted waste management and snatched the livelihood of waste recycling workers.
Residents of Okhla and environmental groups are hopeful that the consent to establish (No Objection Certificate) and consent to operate given by DPCC to the plant in question will be withdrawn to save Delhi from an avoidable environmental health crisis. This will be a step to undo the legacy of environmental lawlessness in Delhi.
DPCC is guilty of having facilitated the fake public hearing for the plant which led to the grant of NOC and environmental clearance in 2007. For a plant in Okhla, the hearing was done in Saket in presence of just three persons who were officials of the government and even this was announced for “waste processing facility” not for waste to energy (WTE) plant. This fact has been noted in writing by the then Union Minister of Environment & Forests in a letter to the previous Chief Minister but she being anti-environment and anti-people chose to collude with the waste incinerator company in question.
This letter was shared with the AAP Government’s Environment Minister when we met him.
The Okhla Waste to Energy (WTE) Incinerator plant by JITF Urban Infrastructure Limited (Jindal Ecopolis) has violated every rule in the rule book including environmental clearance conditions with complicity from the DPCC. An inquiry must be ordered to examine the dubious circumstances in which environmental regulations were admittedly violated with impunity. Based on the documents on record, complaints of the residents, the letter of Union Minister of Environment & Forests, fraudulent misrepresentation of facts regarding the project being in accordance with the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s order, minutes of the public hearing and the EIA report, there is a compelling logic for conducting an inquiry and fixing accountability for the acts of omission and commission of the officials in this matter.
This lawlessness was unleashed on the residents of Okhla and Okhla Bird Sanctuary by Shri Prithiviraj Jindal’s waste to energy plant based on unapproved and experimental Chinese technology. DPCC has consistently been indulgent and has been misleading the authorities disregarding the fact of Okhla colonies which are getting engulfed from the dust and pollution from the plant including New Friends Colony, Maharani Bagh, Ishwar Nagar, Sukhdev Vihar, Jamia Nagar, Jasola Vihar and Sarita Vihar Jamia Millia Islamia university, Holy Family hospital and several other colonies and institutions.
The fact is that burning or incineration or combustion is unambiguously polluting. It may be noted that mother’s milk in areas where waste burning takes place has already been tested and found to contain high amount of dioxins. Dioxins, are well known carcinogenic chemicals. Incinerators also emit greenhouse gases, especially from plastics. Incineration drives a negative spiral of increased energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Also, restrictive policies in typical incinerator contracts require a set amount of garbage. These contracts impose fees that that are a disincentive for a city to improve waste prevention strategies (i.e. reduction), recycling and composting collections.
Instead of making Delhi citizens suffer from such hazardous technologies there is a need for integrated zero waste management. Take the case of Gandhi Nagar, a town panchayat of around 2,400 families in Vellore district, Tamil Nadu. Gandhi Nagar generates garbage of over 48 tonnes per year. This garbage is converted into manure and recyclable waste generating over Rs.3 lakh in revenue, and the scheme provides employment to local people. Such measures promote sustainable development as against the current trend of introducing failed polluting technologies, which turn citizens into guinea pigs for experiments. Zero Waste approach should be adopted to deal with garbage crisis, not NIMBYism (Not in My Back Yard). Waste should not be shifted from richer localities to poorer localities.
The Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Integrated Plant Nutrient Management has recommended setting up of 1000 compost plants all over the country and has allocated Rs.800 crore for the same in the year 2005. This report has been submitted in the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the writ petition (civil) no. 888/1996) case. Notably, this report recommends composting as a measure for waste management instead of energy recovery because Indian soil is carbon deficit.
The ideal resource management strategy for municipal solid waste is to avoid its generation in the first place. This implies changing production and consumption patterns to eliminate the use of disposable, non-reusable, non-returnable products and packaging. The alternative waste disposal methods include waste reduction, waste segregation at source, extended use and refuse, recycling, biomethanation technology and composting. Zero Waste approach should be adopted to deal with garbage crisis, not NIMBYism.
In sum, the waste incinerator projects are technologically incompatible with reducing dioxins emissions and at the same time relies on minimum guaranteed waste flows. It indirectly promotes continued waste generation while hindering waste prevention, reuse, composting, recycling, and recycling-based community economic development. It costs cities and municipalities more and provides fewer jobs than comprehensive recycling and composting. It prohibits the development of local recycling-based businesses.
In keeping with the characteristics of Indian municipal solid waste — low calorific value, high moisture content, high proportion of organic matter, and considerable inerts like earth, sand and grit – that the Supreme Court Committee on Solid Waste Management suggested simple technologies and easily achievable standards with liberal time frame knowing the limitations of urban local bodies and their institutional capabilities. It made recommendations to improve the finances of urban local bodies and to boost the composting of waste and recycling industry in this field. Recycling can eliminate a large chunk of the problem. Wet biodegradable wastes (e.g. cooked and uncooked foods and flowers) make excellent for composting. Indian soil is deficient in carbon and that is also the need of the hour to enrich the soil. In the US alone, recycling conserves an equivalent of approximately 11.9 billion gallons of gasoline, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking one-fifth (40 million) of all US cars off the roads every year.
The move by the incineration industry to term waste incinerators as ‘renewable energy’ projects is not only fraudulent but also dangerous. The 25 year power purchase agreement for purchase of 50 % of what is generated (4-5 MW) by the Jindal’s plant in Okhla must be rescinded in view of the above facts. Municipal solid waste is not considered to be a renewable energy source since it tends to be a mixture of fuels that can be traced back to renewable and non-renewable sources. An inquiry is needed to examine as how much power has been generated and added by this unit. The agreement was signed under the misleading assumption that WTE is renewable energy. The advocates of incinerators prefer to pre-empt segregation and recycling efforts being made by municipalities and communities around the world.
AAP government’s arrival has come as a ray of hope for the aggrieved residents to save them from an impending public health disaster.
2. AAP government should set up a committee tasked with providing recommedations for dealing with nuclear emergency in future.
Given the fact that 2,800 MW nuclear power plant is proposed in Fatehabad’s Gorakhpur village in Haryana is merely 210 km from Delhi, there is compellig logic for AAP government to constitute a committee on nuclear emergency. Incidentally, the water requirement for the project will be met from the Fatehabad branch of the Bhakra canal, which is meant for irrigation. It is noteworthy that the distance between Fukushima and Tokyo is 238 km. Despite this, after the nuclear disaster on March 11, 2011, Tokyo’s population was compelled to consider evacuation. Unlike sea as a source of water in the case of Fukushima, in Fatehabad, canal water is the only source for water.
3. Make present and future generation of Delhi residents safe from the terrorism of private schools, hospitals and transport
AAP Government should adopt Common School System which has been advocated for long since. In recent times it was recommended by a Committee appointed by Shri Nitish Kumar government in Bihar but he did not take any step to act on its recommendation that called “for a legislation underpinning the Common School System.” The Delhi Government should use it and pass legislation for it. If it happens it would be a trendsetter beyond empty posturing. The new government should provide robust public health system like Germany and Cuba instead of promoting five star hospitals which compel women to mortgage their jewels for medical expenses. This makes the poor fall into a vicious debt trap.
AAP government’s choice of Metro as a mode of transport to commute instead of availing private vehicle was a welcome step. Earlier, Shri Veerapa Moily had announced that he would use public transport once a week starting October 9, 2013 but it soon turned out that it was empty posturing. We are hopeful that AAP government will remain consistent with its considered views.
AAP government should provide infrastructure and space for walking and cycling should get even more priority than public transport. Wednesday or Friday should be declared a Free Public Transport Day as first step towards making public transport totally free. The public transport can be funded in full by means other than collecting fares from passengers. It may be funded by national, regional or local government through taxation. Several mid-size European cities and many smaller towns around the world have converted their bus networks to zero-fare. The city of Hasselt in Belgium is a notable example: fares were abolished in 1997 and ridership was as much as “13 times higher” by 2006. Zero-fare transport can make the system more accessible and fair for low-income residents. Road traffic can benefit from decreased congestion and faster average road speeds, fewer traffic accidents, easier parking, savings from reduced wear and tear on roads. It will lead to environmental and public health benefits including decreased air pollution and noise pollution from road traffic. If use of personal vehicles/cars is discouraged, zero-fare public transport could mitigate the problems of global warming and oil depletion.
Delhi Government should take lessons from countries and cities which are care free. Copenhagen, one of the most densely populated cities in Europe, in Denmark has successfully transformed car parks into car-free public squares and car-dominated streets into car free streets.
4. Make Delhi India’s first asbestos free state
There are three factories engaged in handling asbestos namely, Makino Auto Industries (P) Ltd in Shahdara, Brakes International in Udyog Vihar and Minocha Metals (P) Ltd in Patparganj Industrial Area. They should be asked to switch non-asbestos materials in the light of the fact that more than 50 countries have banned white asbestos mineral fibers that causes incurable lung cancer according to World Health Organisation. This will go a long way in combating fatal diseases caused corporate crimes and in making Delhi the first state in the country to adopt zero-tolerance policy towards the killer fibers. National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) passed an order in Case No: 693/30/97-98 recommending that the asbestos sheets roofing be replaced with roofing made up of some other material that would not be harmful. Shri P K Tripathi, as Chief Secretary, Government of Delhi informed Dr Barry Castleman, a former WHO consultant that asbestos was banned in Delhi at Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi in December 2012. It has been claimed that NCT of Delhi has banned use of asbestos roofs for new schools. If this indeed true the order has not been implemented, the official letters should be made accessible on Delhi’s Govt’s website and steps taken to ensure that only non-asbestos building and water supply pipes etc are procured. A register of asbestos laden buildings and victims of asbestos related diseases should be created. A compensation fund for the victims of primary and secondary exposure must be established. Villages in Muzaffarpur and Vaishali in Bihar and Bargarh in Odisha have stopped the establishment of asbestos based plants. If AAP government takes note of it and acts decisively it will send nationwide and worldwide clear signal that its government is sensitive to environmental and workers’ issues.
5. Abandon 12 digit biometric Unique Identification (UID)/aadhaar number in Delhi
AAP led government must scrap biometric UID/aadhaar related regressive legacy of Indian National Congress led regime being pursued by BJP led regime at the centre which has made right to have citizens’ rights dependent on being biometrically profiled and not on constitutional guarantees and Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This has takes citizens to pre-Magna carta days (1215 AD) or even earlier to the days prior to the declaration of Cyrus, the Persian King (539 BC) that willed freedom for slaves. Should it not be resisted? The democratic mandate in Delhi is against UID/aadhaar which was made compulsory and caused hardship to residents of Delhi. Unmindful of the fact that people’s right to energy and to cooking fuel funded by government is being snatched away by linking it with aadhaar. The right to life and livelihood is under tremendous threat because significantly large number of Indians has been moved away from fire wood and coal based cooking. Delhi, for instance claims to be a 100 % LPG state. That means right to life and livelihood can be snatched away with its link with aadhaar. Thus, the threat of exclusion in absence of aadhaar based on decrees and sanctions unleashes violence on the people. This is unconstitutional.
AAP government must examine the ramifications of biometric information based identification of residents of India rigorously in the light of global experiences. UK, China, Australia, USA and France have scrapped similar initiatives. US Supreme Court, Philippines’ Supreme Court and European Court of Human Rights has ruled against the indiscriminate biometric profiling of citizens without warrant.
AAP government ought to take note of the fact that endorsing Hon’ble Supreme Court’s order, even Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) on Finance in its report dated 18 October, 2013 asked Government of India to issue instructions to State Governments and to all other authorities that 12 digit biometric Unique Identification (UID)/aadhaar number should not be made mandatory for any purpose. The Seventy Seventh Report of the 31 member Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) on Finance reads, “Considering that in the absence of legislation, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is functioning without any legal basis, the Committee insisted the Government to address the various shortcomings/issues pointed out in their earlier report on ‘National Identification Authority of India Bill 2010′ and bring forth a fresh legislation.”
If AAP government introduces a resolution in the state assembly announcing stoppage of aadhaar and un-signing the MoU which previous government led by Congress had signed with UIDAI, it will further establish its claim to represent the common man.
In any case, in view of the ongoing case in the Hon’ble Supreme Court order, AAP Delhi Government will have to file its affidavit in the Supreme Court in Writ Petition (Civil) NO(s). 494 of 2012 because notices have been “issued to all the States and Union Territories through standing counsel. In its interim orders dated September 23, 2013 the court has directed, “In the meanwhile, no person should suffer for not getting the Adhaar card inspite of the fact that some authority had issued a circular making it mandatory and when any person applies to get the Adhaar Card voluntarily…” When Ministry of Petroleum sought the modification of this order this order was reiterated on November 26, 2013 wherein the court said, “Interim order to continue, in the meantime.”
In a significant development, on 24 March 2014, the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s bench of Dr Justice BS Chauhan and Justice J Chelameswar heard Shri Mohan Parasaran, Solicitor General of India et al as petitioners and upon hearing the counsel the Hon’ble Court made the following order, “Issue notice. In addition to normal mode of service, dasti service, is permitted. Operation of the impugned order shall remain stayed. In the meanwhile, the present petitioner (Unique Identification Authority of India -UIDAI) is restrained from transferring any biometric information of any person who has been allotted the Aadhaar number to any other agency without his consent in writing. More so, no person shall be deprived of any service for want of Aadhaar number in case she is otherwise eligible or entitled. All the authorities are directed to modify their forms, circulars, likes so as to not compulsorily require the Aadhaar number in order to meet the requirement of the interim order passed by this Court forthwith. Tag and list the matter with main matter i.e. WP(C) No.494/2012.”
The Court was hearing the special leave to Appeal (Criminal) No. 2524/2014 i.e. UIDAI Versus Central Bureau Of Investigation (CBI) that was earlier mentioned before the Chief Justice of India. This case has now been linked with the previous case Writ Petition (Civil) No. 494 of 2012 against the biometric identification based unique identity (UID)/ Aadhaar number.
It must be noted that Hon’ble Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice H L Dattu heard the matter on February 13, 2015 and made the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) a party in the casea challenging the validity of the Aadhaar scheme through which the government intends to issue a unique identity number to all residents in the country, says a report. Hon’ble Chief Justice said that the case will be heard by a bench constituted by him as the issue of Aadhaar was important. Col (retd) Mathew Thomas, a former defence services officer and missile scientist has filed the case. Senior advocate, Shri Gopal Subramaniam, appearing for Col (retd) Thomas submitted that schemes similar to aadhaar/UID have already been scrapped by many countries and the central government should be directed to destroy all data collected by it under the scheme during the hearing. But the matter of constituting a three judge bench to hear the matter remains pending for several months despite the fact that personal sensitive information of citizens being handed over to foreign companies like Safran Group and Accenture admittedly seven years!.
It is germane to note that Pakistan’s National Database Registration Authority (NADRA) has alraedy handed over its database of biometric and demographic data to foreign countries as according to an interview by Shri JulIan Assange who disclosed this while interviewing Shri Imran Khan. The Shri Assange’s book “When Google met Wikileaks” merits the attention of AAP government to comprehend the ramifications of large technology firms who can threaten the liberty of individuals and the fact that “cyber boot camps are indistinguishable from Internet cafes.” In an electronic age the leakage of electrically stored data is a destined fact. Its consequences merit attention of AAP government.
British-Sri Lankan musician MIA (Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam) in her 2010 song titled “The Message” has the following lines:
“Headbone connected to the headphones
Headphones connected to the iPhone
iPhone connected to the Internet
Connected to the Google
Connected to the government.”
Shri JulIan Assange reproduces this epigram in one full page before starting his book. He refers to Google’s “think/do tank” based in New York-Google Ideas- supposedly headed by a Director of regime change. AAP government’s political and legal imagination must ponder over this message because of the impact of connection technologies on 21st century statecraft.
It is noteworthy that MIA’s fourth music album “Matangi” was opened in New York City by a live ten minute address from Shri Assange, via video conference. Shri Assange, the WikiLeaks leader who is still in the Ecuadorian embassy in London because of threat from the UK and US governments, addressed MIA’s audience. Shri Assange supported Shri Edward Snowden and warned of the dangers of NSA spying and appealed to the singer’s fans to engage politically for altering the world order for common people.
It is relevant to underline that AAP leader Shri Prashant Bhushan engaged and exchanged notes with Shri Assange’s lawyer when she was in New Delhi at a program organsied by Citizens Form for Civil Liberties (CFCL).
It is noteworthy that a resolution was passed by West Bengal Assembly on December 2, 2013 against biometric aadhaar related programs. It is evident that from the resolution against the aadhaar that all the parties other than Indian National Congress are opposed to the implementation of Aadhaar based programs. Now BJP government at the centre and in the states is also pursuing the path of Congress government after campaigning against aadhaar during the Lok Sabha elections of 2014. AAP Govt should introduce a resolution in the Delhi Assembly to expose the double speak of BJP.
It must be recalled that wherever Direct Benefits Transfers scheme based on aadhaar was launched in the states that went for elections recently, Indian National Congress lost. Shri Rahul Gandhi had turned aadhaar as his key promise in UP and Amethi but he and his party lost miserably in Uttar Pradesh election too. Promises based on biometric aadhaar is like India Shining campaign of BJP-led Government are rooted in a make believe world to which Indian voters are allergic. Even Shri Sanjay Gandhi faced the adverse consequences of forcing planning on human body. Aadhaar linked programs make Indian citizens subjects of Big Data companies. It is akin to Shri Sanjay Gandhi’s forced family planning programs. Despite the ongoing electoral debacle being faced by Indian National Congress, it has failed to see the writing on the wall.
The abandonment of biometric aadhhar number by AAP government will demonstrate that its government will end the culture of spying on its citizens and children in myriad disguises. It will make citizens stand up against illegitimate advances of the state.