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Haryana

WTE plant step closer to reality

November 12, 2019 06:09 AM

courtesy  HT NOV 12
Bandhwari An expert panel of the environment ministry recommends green nod may be given to the waste-to-energy unit


Prayag Arora-Desai

prayag.desai@htlive.com

Gurugram : The Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the Union ministry of environment, forests and climate change (MoEFCC) has recommended that environmental clearance (EC) be granted for a proposed waste-to-energy (WTE) plant at the Bandhwari landfill site. The go-ahead comes more than two years after the proposal was first submitted.


Experts, however, warned that grant of an environmental clearance would legitimise past violations of environmental laws by the MCG and Ecogreen Energy, its concessionaire for waste management, which have continued to dump 1,000 tonnes untreated municipal waste at the site, in violation of the SWM Rules, 2016. The project will lead to further ecological degradation in sensitive Aravalli region, experts said.

The minutes of an EAC meeting (accessed by HT) note: “The EAC, based on the information submitted and clarifications provided by the Project Proponent (Municipal Corporation of Gurugram) and detailed discussions held on all the issues, recommended the project for grant of environmental clearance...”.

However, the EAC has created certain conditions for grant of permit. This includes seeking consent to operate (CTO) and consent to establish (CTE) from the HSPCB, leachate management, periodic monitoring of groundwater and soil samples, and so on.


At least four senior officials in the Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB), MCG and MCF (Municipal Corporation of Faridabad) confirmed that the project has been green-lighted by the MoEFCC, though a formal nod is awaited. “The EC  has been granted. Once we get a copy from the MCG, we will consider granting additional permissions, as per protocol,” said a senior HSPCB official, requesting anonymity.

“The clearance has been granted for a 2017 proposal, for which an MoU was signed between MCG and Ecogreen. We are expecting a copy of the clearance this week and will publish it in newspapers. Following this, we will seek consent to operate and establish from HSPCB,” Ecogreen Energy general manager Rajesh Kurup said Monday.

MoEFCC spokesperson Gaurav Khare did not respond to calls and messages for comment.


The power plant, for which chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar had laid the foundation stone last year, is part of MCG’s long-term plan to remove over 25 lakh tonnes of legacy waste from the Bandhwari landfill by converting it into fuel for electricity generation.

EXPERTS SEE RED

Environmentalists are viewing this development with caution given the situation at Bandhwari, where the landfill has contaminated groundwater and sparked a health crisis in surrounding villages. An August 2019 report by NEERI found evidence of groundwater contamination in villages of Mangar, Baliawas and Gwal Pahari, lying adjacent to the 37-ha landfill. Samples collected from 14 locations within a 5-km radius were “highly contaminated” with pathogenic bacteria and heavy metals, the report stated.


“This supports claims by locals that contamination from landfill is spreading via the underlying aquifer. From Section5 of the report, it is clear that metal and bacteriological contamination of water is due to leachate from Bandhwari,” Rekha Singh, municipal waste expert certified by Quality Council of India under MoEFCC, said.

Green VIOLATIONS OVERLOOKED

Moreover, the conditions stipulated for grant of EC have already been violated at Bandhwari, as observed by the NGT in various orders over the past year.


This has led activists to question the efficacy of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report submitted by MCG to the EAC. “A rigorous EIA would have factored in the impact that the waste dump has already had, and the past conduct of the MCG would have been considered by SEIAA,” activist Vaishali Chandra said.

MCG commissioner Amit Khatri responded, “I cannot comment on environment clearance. Why have they recommended it for clearance is the purview of the MoEFCC. As for the WTE plant, that is Ecogreen’s project. The MCG is only an enabler.” 

Chandra and other experts maintain that after repeated violations of the SWM Rules, 2016, there can be no precedent to allow for a polluting facility, such as a WTE, to be set up. Burning of waste would result in toxic dioxin and furan emissions being released into the local environment, exacerbating the pollution crisis and exposing residents to further health risks. “One cannot presuppose that the violators, after repeated warnings, will now abide by the law, particularly when there has already has been major consequence to human health,” she said.


LOCAL OPPOSITION

At a public hearing conducted in March 2018, representatives of several villages voiced their dissent against the plant, and locals have continued to do so in panchayat gatherings convened since. “We do not want the plant or the landfill here. Let the city manage its own waste instead of dumping it on us and endangering our health,” said Bhagat Singh, a resident of Baliawas.

AGAINST NGT ORDER


Experts also said the proposal to turn Gurugram’s solid waste into fuel for electricity contradicts the NGT’s July directive, wherein the MCG was told to follow the Indore model of waste management, which helped the municipality successfully reclaim a 100-acre landfill in Devgradiya.

“The Indore model advocates for least polluting approach, which is segregation, composting, recycling and sending only inert material to the landfill. Why, despite NGT directions, is an alternate project being cleared?” said advocate Rahul Choudhary of the Legal Initiative for Forests and Environment

 
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