Write to Environment Minister against its operation near eco-sensitive zone of Okhla bird sanctuary

A group of Okhla residents have written to Union Minister of Environment and Forests Jayanthi Natarajan complaining against the operation of a municipal waste-based power plant within the eco-sensitive zone of the Okhla Bird Sanctuary and Wildlife Park and sought its immediate closure.

“The coming up and functioning of the Jindal Urban Infrastructure Limited [JUIL] power plant has been opposed by the residents, environmental groups and rag-pickers. It is also facing a case from the Sukhdev Vihar Residents’ Welfare Association in the National Green Tribunal. Moreover, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has a White Paper available on its website which is against such thermal treatment of waste to generate energy,” said Gopal Krishna of the ToxicsWatch Alliance.

“We have been campaigning against the plant since March 2005 when it was first proposed,” he added.

In their letter to the Ministry, the residents have noted that the plant is not only situated in the proximity of New Friends Colony, Maharani Bagh, Sukhdev Vihar and the business district of Nehru Place, but also several prominent institutions, including Apollo, Escorts and Holy Family and Jamia Milia Islamia.

“Disregarding the vulnerability of these areas, this power plant has come up deploying unapproved Chinese technology and in violation of all relevant environmental regulations and rules,” noted Mr. Krishna.

The plant, which falls within 2 km of the Okhla Bird Sanctuary and Wildlife Park, does not have the mandatory clearances from the National Board for Wildlife.

The letter further states: “It’s our belief that such clearances will not be possible since the guidelines of the Ministry, issued on February 9, 2011, clearly prohibit the setting up of industries causing pollution [water, air, soil, noise, etc].”

“It has been established at the NGT that the plant is heavily polluting in nature,” Mr. Krishna added.

Speaking about the plant’s location, a resident here noted: “The location of the plant in an eco-sensitive zone, which is a protected area of Uttar Pradesh abut into the boundary of Delhi. This attracts the following Ministry guideline — where the boundary of a protected area abuts the boundary of another State/Union Territory, where it does not form part of any protected area, it shall be the endeavour of both State/Union Territory governments to have mutual consultation and decide upon the width of the eco-sensitive zone around the protected area in question. The same has not been done in the case of the power plant in question.”

The residents also point ed out in their letter that “the disaster in Uttarakhand is being cited as the result of opposition to the proposed eco-sensitive zone in that State by vested interests. Surely you will not allow similar gross eco-sensitive zone violations that could lead to another man-made disaster — that in the national Capital and within 10 km of Parliament.”