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Delhi's Waste-to-Energy plant is unauthorised: NGT

Vishakh Unnikrishnan | Updated on: 25 January 2017, 14:20 IST

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has decided to reserve its decision on the Okhla 'Waste-to-Energy' plant which could result in the plant shutting down, much to the relief of residents who live close to it.

Residents, as well as environmental activists, have been fighting for the plant to shut operations after locals complained of high levels of pollution in the area leading to a serious health crisis.

"We are expecting a more stringent decision by the Tribunal to shut down the plant now," said environmentalist Gopal Krishna of ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) who has been following the case.

The plant, run and owned by the Jindal Urban Infrastructure Limited (JUIL), a company of M/s Jindal Saw Group Limited at Sukhdev Vihar in Okhla, was questioned by the NGT bench headed by Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar on whether the technology used by the plant was legally approved.

The bench concluded that the argument that the plant is a Refuse Derived Fuel plant, (the kind approved by the Supreme Court) was false and it did not have the approval of the SC to function as a 'pilot project' as Jindal had previously argued.

The plant is situated in the vicinity of the Okhla Bird Sanctuary, various public institutions and residential colonies.

ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), a group that fights against industrial pollution, states that they had written to the Delhi government complaining about the plant's purported approvals.

"The consent to run the plant has also expired on 31 December 2016," Gopal Krishna said.

Environmental groups have also contended that the plant is located on a Green Belt that occupies more than 10 acres of green area under the 'Master Plan of Delhi' by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA).

And according to the 'Master Plan', "hazardous waste processing via hospital/medical/industrial waste is amongst the industries, manufacturing of which shall be prohibited within National Capital Territory of Delhi".

"We are seeking urgent intervention in the matter with relevant environmental rules and consider the closure of the dioxins emitting power plant located in a residential and ecologically sensitive area. Residents and environmental groups who have been struggling against the proposal of such hazardous technology-based plant since March 2005 now are awaiting the final verdict of the NGT," Krishna added.

The residents of Sukhdev Vihar residents had also written to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal demanding shutting down of Okhla's plant.

"We ask you to ensure that the plant operator immediately vacates the green area and it be restored to its intended use of a community park or other green activity," said the letter to the chief minister.

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), however, has argued in favour of the plant.

According to the CPCB, the land which belongs to the DDA, had leased it out to the New Delhi Municipal Council to establish a sewage treatment plant to treat waste collected from the Rashtrapati Bhawan.

The CPCB also argued that the emissions from the plant was well within the limits under the 'Municipal Solid Waste Rules, 2000'.

Edited by Jhinuk Sen

First published: 25 January 2017, 14:20 IST
Vishakh Unnikrishnan @sparksofvishdom

A graduate of the Asian College of Journalism, Vishakh tracks stories on public policy, environment and culture. Previously at Mint, he enjoys bringing in a touch of humour to the darkest of times and hardest of stories. One word self-description: Quipster