Burning trash for power raises hackles

Green concern

The much-detested and protested-against ‘Waste to energy plant’ in Okhla has come to haunt residents once again.

One of several such treatment plants planned by the previous Delhi Government, the Okhla plant had been shut down following vociferous protests by green activists and concerned citizens. The case is also pending in the National Green Tribunal and hearing is ongoing. But flouting all norms, the plant owned by a prominent private company has started functioning again.

 Residents of affected areas – Okhla, Sarita Vihar, Sukhdev Vihar, Jamia Nagar etc are suffering the same torment they endured due to the plant a year ago. Ranjit Devraj, a journalist who has been at the forefront of the citizens’ movement, says, “We fail to understand why such an experimental project should be set up in the heart of Delhi. This plant releases chemicals like dioxins and furans, which were used by the United States during its Vietnam War under the brand name Agent Orange. Are we guinea pigs to be put on a medical trial?”

Another resident Vimal Monga says, “The hot fly ash from the plant has been blanketing the area. There is this dust all over the place. It burns the skin and makes holes in clothes. It’s akin to living next to a volcano. We don’t even know how it is affecting our children. The asthmatic and elderly are suffering already.”

The plant, curiously, has been set up in the vicinity of major health facilities like Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, Holy Family Hospital, the Fortis Heart Institute and the Cheshire Homes for the sick and elderly, besides the Okhla Bird sanctuary. Green activists are, naturally, up in arms against the project.

Bird watcher TK Roy, says, “This is probably the worst location they could have found for a garbage-to-energy plant. Birds anyway are avoiding the sanctuary these days thanks to the polluted Yamuna water. Now this plant will ensure that the sanctuary dies. This is typical of ‘development projects’ these days which have no concern for the environment.”

Gopal Krishna of the Toxic Watch Alliance campaign group informs, “The Government is blindly following the example of garbage-to-energy treatment plants running abroad. They don’t realise that for that to happen, we must have a systematic and scientific segregation of wastage first. The calorific value of Indian waste is way below the required degree because it is mostly wet. This project is not thought-through at all.”

The residents have now approached Saurabh Bharadwaj, Delhi’s transport and environment minister and requested for help to permanently shut down the plant.
The AAP Government, they are hopeful, will take the Aam Aadmi’s side.

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