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Haryana

GURGAON-Bandhwari air pollution status raises concern over WTE plan

February 27, 2020 05:54 AM

COURTESY TOI FEB 27

Bandhwari air pollution status raises concern over WTE plan
DUMPING SITE: Experts say use of sound technology important in keeping air pollution under check
Prayag Arora-Desai

prayag.desai@htlive.com

Gurugram : After being on the radar of citizens and local environmentalists for years as the site where over 20,000 tonnes of legacy municipal waste accumulated over the years, contaminating its soil and water, Bandhwari village, some 20km from the city, featured 10th in the list of world’s 50 most polluted regions with respect to concentration of PM2.5. The list was published Tuesday as part of an air pollution report by Swedish technology company IQ AirVisual.

Experts expressed concern about the findings, but explained that PM2.5 concentration could be more because of air quality monitor’s proximity to the Gurugram-Faridabad toll plaza and a flyover being built nearby, than a result of emissions being released from Haryana’s largest unsanitary landfill, where about 1,900 tonnes of untreated municipal waste is dumped daily.

However, experts and locals said that in view of the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram’s (MCG) plan to build a waste-to-energy (WTE) plant at the landfill site, any technological oversight would exacerbate the region’s long-running pollution crisis.

While prolonged exposure to both PM10 and PM2.5 is of concern, the latter is more dangerous as it is smaller and enters the lungs and the bloodstream, causing more serious cardiovascular and pulmonary issues. PM10 exposure can cause irritation of eyes, nose and throat, in addition to coughing, wheezing a host of other respiratory ailments.

VEHICULAR pollution

Bandhwari, along with several other villages in Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, is featured on the WAQR 2019 for the first time, thanks to a growing network of air quality monitors in north India.

In November 2018, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) began gathering data from a monitoring station at the National Institute of Solar Energy on the Gurugram-Faridabad Road. According to WAQR, Bandhwari recorded an annual average PM2.5 concentration of 90.5ug/m3 in 2019.

While HSPCB regional officer Kuldeep Singh said they would conduct an assessment of the area, MCG commissioner Vinay Pratap Singh and Gurugram deputy commissioner Amit Khatri did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

“We cannot make any further comment on Bandhwari’s ranking in IQ AirVisual Report. If corrective action is needed, it will be taken,” Singh said, declining to comment on the specific nature of air pollution in the region.

Experts, on the other hand, explained that Bandhwari’s air pollution could be attributed to mainly two factors—proximity to the toll plaza, which sees heavy vehicular movement, and emissions from the landfill.

The distance between the toll plaza and the CPCB air quality monitoring station is 3km.

WASTE BURNING

A recent report by the CPCB, submitted to the NGT as part of ongoing legal proceedings with regard to remediation of the landfill, also confirms the presence of waste burning at the dump site.

“One cannot simply say that air pollution is due to the landfill; all factors need to be considered. As far as PM2.5 is concerned, it is more likely a result of vehicular emissions from Gurugram Faridabad Road, with some contribution from waste burning at the dump site. Landfills, otherwise, emit gaseous pollutants, such as ammonia or methane,” Mukesh Khare, an air quality expert at IIT-Delhi and member of the SC-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority (EPCA) said.

INCONSISTENT DATA

The earliest available air quality data from Bandhwari (March 2019) shows that pollutants, including PM10, PM2.5, SOx and NOx, were all within the permissible limit when the study was being conducted from December 2016 to February 2017.

The environment impact assessment (EIA) report was submitted to Union ministry of forests and climate change by MCG to obtain a green clearance for WTE plant.

“From the baseline monitoring result, it is observed that the monitored parameters (PM10, PM2.5, SO2, NO2) are within the permissible limits as per NAAQS, 2009, during the study period,” the EIA report says.

However, a more recent CPCB report (dated February 6, a copy of which is with HT), paints a different picture. The study by NEERI (June 4-8, 2019) shows concentration of PM2.5 and PM10 in Bandhwari and in vicinity of landfill were in excess of India’s safety standards; other gaseous pollutants were within limits.

“Either the source of PM2.5 and PM10 in Bandhwari have exponentially increased their contribution since December 2016, or there is some issue with MCG’s baseline air quality monitoring data. It is extremely unlikely that Bandhwari had favourable PM level in the dead of winter, when the rest of NCR was struggling to breathe,” former EPCA member and Gurugram resident Niranjan Raje said pointing out that during the EIA study, both Gurugram and Faridabad recorded hazardous air.

WTE PLANT

These revelations have sparked fresh concerns over the MCG’s proposed WTE plant, which would burn waste to generate electricity. While the landfill’s contribution to particulate matter emissions is less than that of vehicles, locals fear that a less-than-optimally functioning WTE plant would worsen the area’s pollution crisis.

“Authorities must consider whether a WTE plant, which is known to emit toxic dioxins, furans and particulate matter into the atmosphere, is feasible in an area which is already quite polluted with respect to air, soil and water,” said Vaishali Rana Chandra, environmentalist and Bandhwari resident who has been tracking ecological impacts of the landfill for close to a decade.

Chandra cited the example of the Timarpur WTE plant in Delhi’s Okhla which was recently the subject of protests by residents, who complained of deteriorating air quality due to emissions from the plant.

An Ecogreen Energy spokesperson, MCG’s concessionaire for waste management in Gurugram, responded to these concerns, saying, “Our WTE plant will be installed with the requisite technology to keep emissions from the plant within permissible limits, both gaseous and particulate. With careful monitoring, the emissions from the WTE plant will be less than those currently emanating from the landfill.”

Experts also opined that if the plant was technologically sound, there was little to fear. “If the legacy waste is treated correctly, then emissions from the landfill will reduce. If the waste is not treated adequately to make it suitable for combustion or if the correct pollution control technologies are not employed, which is often the case in India, then there will be negative consequences. So, the WTE could be a positive step, but requires extreme caution,” TERI director (environment and waste management) Suneel Pandey said.

His view was echoed by Dipankar Saha, former head of CPCB’s air quality lab. “A WTE is a better alternative than allowing waste to languish, get mismanaged or burnt. The W

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