Take up toxic waste-to-energy plant closure with newly-formed air quality body: Sukhdev Vihar residents to Atishi

Take up toxic waste-to-energy plant closure with newly-formed air quality body: Sukhdev Vihar residents to Atishi

Take up shutting of Okhla WTE plant issue with newly-formed air quality body: Sukhdev Vihar residents writes to MLA Atishi. In a letter, Sukhdev Vihar SFS (Pocket A) Residents’ Welfare Association, has raised the issue of the functioning of the plant in residential areas for years. It is not known whether Atishi has received this letter.

In the letter, the RWA has raised these issues and wrote: “We thank you for the concern you have shown for our plight in having to live a bare 35 meters away from a toxic Waste-to-Energy plant that burns 2,000 tonnes of unsegregated MSW daily and has been certified by the central Pollution control Board (cPCB) as exceeding emission limits for such seriously toxic substances as PM 2.5, PM 10 as well as dioxins and furans.

“ln winter, due to zero wind speed, the whole area around the plant fills up with toxic emissions causing enormous distress to young and old and those suffering from asthma and other respiratory and cardio-vascular ailments. We are in greater danger from the COVID-19 pandemic than people living elsewhere Delhi. lt is a death sentence hanging over our heads.

“We request you therefore to formally take up with the newly-formed Commission for Air Quality Management, NCR, the question of shutting this plant down during the winter months, in the interim, and permanent relocation to a safer site near a landfill. We list below nine obvious reasons why the plant ought not exist in its present location to help you take the matter up with the Commission’

“1) The plant came up in the face of a PIL lodged against it in Delhi High Court in 2009 — before the foundation stone was laid and well before it started operation in 2011. The fact that it has been under continuous litigation shows the long-standing, legal opposition by residents who fear for their lives and health and properties.

“2) According to the Swacch Bharat waste management manual of the Ministry of Urban Development WtE plants are to be located in areas marked for medium or heavy industry and not less than 300 meters from residential areas. A WtE plant of this size, using primitive mass-burn technology and equipment from China should be at least 500 meters away. Here it is a bare 35 meters away!

“3) Plant falls squarely in the Red Category of industries. Also, a power plant producing more than 20 MW by burning waste falls in the ‘A’ category’  lts location in a thickly populated area of south Delhi has been condemned as “callous” by a Parliamentary standing committee’

“4) The plant stands on a green belt meant for a community park under the Master plan of Delhi 2021. ln fact, it is encroaching into the buffer zone of another polluting facility – the Okhla Sewage Treatment Plant, currently being expanded by the Jal Board towards Sukhdev Vihar and further affecting the carrying capacity of the area.

“5) Plant operates three pressure boilers, with no guarantee against a possible cascading explosion involving diesel stored for use as auxiliary fuel to sustain the burning of low calorific value MSW.  Where the rules specify a minimum of 1,500 k/cal per kg, the plant receives MSW at less than 1,000 k/cal per kg, which is far lower than the 2,600 k/cal per kg indicated in the EIA. There is no contingency plan in the event of a disaster and no outreach to residents at dangerously close proximity.

“6) The operator has failed to produce invoices or any record for purchase or use of activated charcoal of specified grade needed to eliminate dioxins and furans and mercury in the emissions, putting the health of the residents at the mercy of the operator.  In the past CPCB has cautioned the plant on insufficient use of activated charcoal.

“7) According to the EIA the plant was to produce refuse derived fuel (RDF) fluff which can be transported to cement plants, power plants or brick kilns that are suitably located.  Instead, no RDF unit was ever built while a power plant is being operated in the middle of residential colonies burning the dirtiest fuel possible – unsegregated MSW. Even the NTPC power plant at Badarpur, now shut down was  running on high calorific value pulverized coal on the grounds of causing aerial pollution.

“8) The plant is surrounded by three major hospitals, the Fortis Escorts Heartcare Institute, Holy Family Hospital and Apollo Indraprastha. These hospitals are currently treating large numbers of COVID-19 patients for whom clean air can make the difference between life and death. There are COVID-19 victims in Sukhdev Vihar who fear for their survival because of the foul air they are forced to breathe.

“9) Ash from the plant, which is toxic from having high heavy metal content, is being moved by road to a landfill located eight kms away in Tughlaqabad, endangering people using the Mathura Road highway. This is an additional reason why the plant should have been located at the landfill and indeed the operator is currently building a second plant there.

“As our elected representative kindly impress upon the Commission these facts, which are supported by documents. Mainly these are a show cause notice from the MoEF&CC issued to the operator on 4-9-2019 that is based on the report of a Ministry sub-committee and on the report of GIZ, the German consultant to the plant and to the ministry. (PS Please note that the NGT had meanwhile imposed a fine of five lakhs on the plant for polluting the air in October and the money was paid in September 2020.  However, this is far from adequate as the plant has been severely polluting this neighbourhood for the last ten years!)”