oppose an incineration plant fearing harmful emissions; waste-pickers fear loss of livelihood
Over 300 people defied police pressure and participated in a public hearing organised to condemn the waste-to-energy plant expected to start operations soon in Ghazipur. The Ghazipur Dairy Farm, the venue of the public hearing, experienced a few tense moments on Saturday 24 March, when around 20 police personnel entered the premises. The hearing was organised by the Ghazipur Anti-Incinerator Committee, a voluntary forum of local residents. Following a refusal of permission by the Ghazipur police station Station House Officer (SHO) Sunil Kumar for the meeting, the residents wrote an application to the Commissioner of Police. Since they did not get a rejection letter in response, they went ahead with the meeting as planned.
“The SHO told us not to hold the meeting. He claimed he hadn’t received any communication from the Commissioner,” said Sant Ram, president of Ghazipur Residents Welfare Association. “They did not allow us to put up a tent and only allowed ten chairs. Later they removed everything and snatched the microphone away as well.” The waste-pickers from the nearby Ghazipur Kabadi basti, about 50 meters from the Ghazipur landfill were also not allowed to join the hearing. The organisers claim that they would have had an attendance of thousands, had it not been for the police posted at the basti stopping the waste-pickers from joining the meeting.
When TEHELKA spoke to the waste-pickers later in the day, they said they had been threatened by the policemen. “The policemen warned us not to go to the meeting. Even though we are in thousands, we dare not go against the police because we live in the area. What will we do if they arrest us?” said waste-picker and the basti resident who does not wish to be named. This controversial 1300 tonne capacity waste-to-energy plant was developed by New Delhi Waste Processing Company Private Ltd., (NDWPCL), a joint venture of Government of Delhi and Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Limited (IL&FS) Ltd. It is a municipal solid waste power project that is expected to generate 12 MW power from waste through the process of incineration. The plant, whose construction was started three months ago, is expected to become operational in six months.
The residents of Ghazipur oppose an incineration plant being set up in an area populated with 36 lakh inhabitants as they fear the harmful emissions that may be generated from it, while the waste-pickers fear loss of livelihood because of the plant. Present at the public hearing was Dunu Roy of Hazards Centre, a not-for-profit institution, who highlighted that the Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Integrated Plant Nutrient Management (May, 2005) discouraged the concept of waste-to-energy policy. It has instead recommended setting up of 1000 compost plants all over the country to manage waste. There are currently three waste-to-energy incineration plants in Delhi – in Ghazipur, Okhla and Bhavana. Out of the three only the Okhla plant, also constructed by IL&FS Ltd is operational and is on its trial run. These are the first set of waste-to-energy plants to come up in India. The technology of the Okhla plant is already contested in the Delhi High Court by the residents of Okhla.
Janani Ganesan is a Correspondent with Tehelka.