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Updated: June 30, 2010 17:07 IST

Okhla residents wary of ‘polluting' energy plant

Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar
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Residents of seven colonies near the proposed “waste-to-energy project” at Okhla here have voiced strong opposition to its setting up in close proximity to a residential area.

In an open letter to Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, residents of Sukhdev Vihar and adjoining colonies of the Capital have written that though the project is being presented as an “environmentally sustainable option'', it is fraught with several dangers.

“As per the US Environmental Protection Agency, all municipal waste combustors (i.e., incinerators), regardless of technologies, release a number of pollutants, including cadmium, lead, mercury, dioxin, sulphur dioxide, hydrogen chloride, nitrogen dioxide, and particulate matter. Dioxin and mercury are of particular concern because they are toxic and persist in the environment,'' says the letter.

Sukhdev Vihar RWA president S.C. Sareen, a retired Additional Secretary with the Delhi Government, said vested interests have been behind this project.

“Or where was the need for the Government to lie and tell the court that it was a pilot project, when it never was?'' he said, adding that the matter would come up for hearing in the Delhi High Court on July 22.

“This plant will emit large quantities of hazardous and toxic emissions (such as dioxins and furans) due to burning of mixed municipal solid waste, and will profoundly affect the health of the people living in the surrounding areas and environment for all times to come,'' the residents have charged.

Mr. Sareen said not only would toxic fumes, particularly dioxins, affect the health of people living nearby, the movement of nearly 500 trucks to and fro the plant would cause traffic problems in the area.

The residents said when a 6-7 tonne medical waste treatment plant has been ordered out of the area by the court due to health concerns, how is it that the Government deemed it fit to install a nearly 2,000 tonne per day treatment plant in the vicinity.

One resident, P. K. Nayyar, who has fought the case seeking removal of the medical waste treatment plant, said despite the operator resisting its relocation, the court had found merit in the residents' demands.

The proposed project is located amid densely populated colonies like Sukhdev Vihar, Noor Nagar, Masih Garh, Haji Colony, Gaffar Manzil, Johri Farm and parts of Jamia Milia Islamia University. “The nearest human settlement is just 100 metres from the proposed site. Besides, the site is in proximity of hospitals like Holy Family, Fortis-Escorts and Apollo,'' the protest note said.

The convener of Toxics Watch Alliance, Gopal Krishna, said the Delhi Government and the Union New and Renewable Energy Ministry have been feigning ignorance of the fact that recycling creates six to ten times more jobs than incinerating as is envisaged in the project. “By recycling, waste valuable materials are recovered and hazardous pollution is prevented,'' he said.

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