Environment activists and local residents have decided to oppose the ‘waste to energy’ projects set up in Delhi to earn carbon credits. Alleging that the waste incineration systems (including waste pelletisation, pyrolysis and gasification systems) produce pollutants, activists demanded cancellation of such projects as these were detrimental to health & environment.
The activists who took part in a public meeting on “Carbon Trade Fraud and Human Cost of the Garbage to Electricity Projects” stressed that the technology used in incinerators is expensive and does not eliminate or adequately control the toxic emissions from today's chemically complex municipal discards. Even new incinerators release toxic metals, dioxins, and acid gases, they claimed. Far from eliminating the need for a landfill, waste incinerator systems produce toxic ash and other residues, the speakers said. Further, such projects disperse incinerator ash throughout the environment and subsequently enter our food chain.
Saying the Timarpur-Okhla ‘waste-to-energy’ project in Delhi was seeing protests from the local residents, the activists claimed that Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Asian Pacific Carbon Fund (APCF) has dropped the incineration based plant out of its portfolio, but the construction of the plant is still underway.
The Timarpur-Okhla carbon credit project was registered on 10th November, 2007 with a claim to reduce greenhouse gases to the tune of 262,791 metric tonnes CO2 equivalent per annum.
Gopal Krishna of Toxics Watch Alliance said the carbon trade was a fake solution for the climate crisis. He said incineration of waste violated Kyoto Protocol which describes waste incineration as a greenhouse gas emitter. Citing the case of waste to energy site in Gandhamguda village in Ranga Reddy district of Andhra Pradesh, Mr Krishna said during operation of RDF incinerator, the village was covered by a heavy shroud of dark smoke. He linked rising cases of skin rashes, asthma, respiratory problems and some cases of stillborns in the region to the presence of plant.
Ravi Agarwal of Toxics Link said, “Incinerator based technological intervention in the waste stream distorts waste management beyond repair. Such systems rely on minimum guaranteed waste flows”.
Shashi Bhushan Pandit of Kabadi Mazdoor Mahasangh believed that waste to energy plants cost cities and municipalities more and provide fewer jobs than comprehensive recycling and composting. It prohibits the development of local recycling-based businesses, he remarked.
Notably, the Prime Minister’s National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) also refers to Biomethanation technology, a biological treatment method for waste to energy instead of the Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) process, an incineration technology, which is a tried, tested, failed and Dioxins emitting technology.
Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD)’s Feasibility Study and Master Plan for Optimal Waste Treatment and Disposal for the Entire State of Delhi of March 2004 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”.
Prof S S Khanna, former Senior Advisor, Planning Commission said that instead of hazardous technologies, biological methods should be adopted to deal with waste management through material recovery and by recycling. He said the Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Integrated Plant Nutrient Management did not encourage WTE policy and instead recommended setting up of 1000 compost plants all over the country.
Dunu Roy of Hazards Centre said the incentives and subsidies should be offered in areas of ‘cold’ technologies alone, which suited our country economically, socially and also our wastes.
In the context of misguided waste incineration plants aimed at earning carbon credits as a solution for climate crisis, B. Sengupta, former Member Secretary, Central Pollution Control Board, referred to the order of Supreme Court which had sought closure and shifting of all such polluting plants from the residential areas.
The meeting ended with a resolution demanding cancellation of environmental clearances granted to WTE projects, provision of livelihood options to poor waste pickers and propagation of small-scale bio-methanation, composting and proper recycling for better waste management.