Skip to main content

Why Delhi's Waste-to-Energy 'solution' is problematic for growing garbage problem

By Chythenyen Devika Kulasekaran* 

A recent ground report, What is MCD roadmap to ‘completely flatten’ Delhi’s three landfills within a year?, has highlighted the critical issue of Delhi’s massive landfills and the pollution they cause. It gives a good overview of the process used by the contractors engaged in the “bio-mining” of legacy waste in Delhi’s three landfill sites. Several “facts” and “figures” are presented in the report on the “high demand” for these trommel “segregated” legacy waste. 
However, projecting Waste-to-Energy (WtE) as the silver bullet for the growing garbage problem is problematic in several ways. Furthermore, the report focuses on several “techno fixes” to the garbage problem rather than addressing it holistically from a geopolitical, social justice, and environmental standpoint.
For example, the contractor is given free rein without any counter questions while he explains the use of the three segregated fractions, which are inerts, combustible fractions, and construction and demolition waste. The inert waste is marketed as having a high nutrient value, which is simply not true. The Pollution Control Board, on the other hand, has declared it unfit for use as fertilizer. 
Similarly, the report projects that the waste-to-energy plant will be “environmentally friendly” and “economical,” both of which are false claims. WtEs produce the most expensive form of electricity, despite the fact that the government subsidises more than 40% of the project. 
In 2020, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) conducted a joint inspection of WtE facilities and discovered some startling figures. Dioxin and furan emissions from all three facilities exceeded permissible limits, and their concentrations in the Okhla WtE were ten times higher! 
In 2021, IIT-M researchers led an international study that discovered chloride-rich particles were the primary cause of haze and fog formation, contributing to Delhi’s air pollution. And the primary cause of chlorine formation in Delhi’s air was the combustion of plastics to generate so-called renewable energy!
Primary cause of chlorine formation in Delhi’s air was the combustion of plastics to generate so-called renewable energy
The report appears to sidestep the question of “why a landfill in the first place?” in favor of focusing on tail pipe solutions. It makes no mention of more practical ideas like capping plastic production or banning the manufacture of non-recyclable plastics like MLPs. Why create something that is intended to pollute? 
The statement “Okhla model is India’s model” while advocating for more WtE plants is the final nail in the coffin. Nothing could be further from the truth, and such statements undermine the legitimate and inspiring fights by communities against projects such as the Okhla WtE. Despite the fact that the combustible fraction of garbage created each day is less than 1,100 tonnes, Delhi already burns approximately 8000 tonnes of the 11,328 tonnes of MSW generated per day. 
In fact, the “Okhla a.k.a. India model” was fined 5 lakh rupees by the DPCC and 25 lakh rupees by the NGT for causing severe health hazards and air pollution in Delhi. Ironically, the Solid Waste Monitoring Committee (SWMC) has recommended expanding the capacity to burn an additional 6,402 tonnes of waste using new WTEs. This raises the most important question – “Why and for whom should the new WtEs be built?”
Sensible solutions such as waste segregation at the source will result in materials that can be reused, recycled, and composted profitably. Furthermore, it has the potential to create 6-8 times the number of jobs as a typical WtE plant. 
Overall, it would have been a better article if it had been more critical of popular waste management narratives and addressed the root causes of garbage generation.
---
Source: Centre for Financial Accountability

Comments

TRENDING

WHO move can 'enable' India to detain citizens, restrict freedom, control media

Counterview Desk  In an an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with copies to concerned Cabinet ministers, bureaucrats and MPs,  health rights network  People’s Alliance for Public Health (PAPH alias JanSwasthya Morcha), has urged that India should not be a signatory to the World Health Organization ( WHO) Pandemic Agreement and Amendments to the  International Health Regulations (IHR) 2005  to be adopted at the 77th World Health Assembly in Geneva from 27th May to 1st June, 2024.

'Enough evidence': Covid vaccines impacted women's reproductive health

By Deepika*  In 2024, the news outlets have suddenly started reporting about covid vaccine side effects in a very extensive manner. Sadly, the damage is already done.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

'Uncertainty in Iran': Raisi brokered crucial Chabahar Port deal with India

By Pranjal Pandey*  Ebrahim Raisi, the Iranian President, and the country’s foreign minister were tragically found deceased on May 20, 2024, shortly after their helicopter crashed in foggy conditions. In response, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei swiftly appointed a relatively unknown vice president as the interim leader.

Informal, outdoor workers 'excluded': Govt of India's excessive heat policies

Counterview Desk  Top civil rights network, National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), has demanded urgent government action to protect millions of outdoor workers from extreme heat and heatwaves, insisting declaration of heatwaves as climatic disaster.

Desist from academic censorship, stop threatening scholars: Letter to ICMR

Counterview Desk  In a letter to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) director, the Universal Health Organisation (UHO) which consists of prominent health experts, has insisted that the Government of India’s top medical research agency should lead high quality research on vaccine safety and “desist from academic censorship”.

Growing stream of pollution infecting homes, bodies in US, Vietnam

By Erica Cirino*  Louisiana’s “River Parishes,” located along the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, shoulder some of the worst industry impacts in the United States. As a result, this region has acquired a grim reputation as “ Cancer Alley .”