The government decision to adopt the waste-to-energy technology for the proposed Brahmapuram municipal solid waste treatment plant is turning controversial.

Quoting Minister for Urban Affairs Manjalamkuzhi Ali, The Hindu had reported on July 9 that a Cabinet sub-committee accepted the technology for the estimate Rs. 350 crore plant based on a recommendation made by the R.V.G. Menon Committee. The expert panel was entrusted with the task of studying advanced waste management technologies available in the country.

In an e-mail response from the US, where he is on a personal visit, Prof. Menon said any attempt to take some portions of the report [expert committee’s] out of context so as to justify a proposal to adopt incineration of undifferentiated municipal waste as the solution at Brahmapuram is either ill-informed or mischievous.

“True, our report does mention waste-to-energy projects, but only as part of an appropriate mix of practices like, separation at source, bio-methanation or composting of biodegradable part, and thermal processing of the non-degradable portion,” he said.

The expert committee report had recommended an appropriate mix of technologies for municipal solid waste treatment and disposal considering the characteristics of the municipal solid waste in the State (high moisture content high biodegradable fraction, the high ambient temperature and humidity) as well as the steadily increasing non-degradable fraction including plastics.

For the biodegradable fraction of the municipal solid waste, the committee had recommended biological treatment, involving either biomethanation or aerobic composting.

Quoting from the report, Prof. Menon said energy recovery through biomethanation should be preferred for biodegradable fraction wherever practical. Thermal processes like incineration, gasification, pyrolysis or plasma pyrolysis, are not desirable for biodegradable fraction, because of energy and material balance considerations, he said.

The government has been in a dilemma over the technology to be implemented in Brahmapuram and had held hectic consultations over the past several weeks. As per the latest decision, the ‘Swiss challenge approach,’ a competitive bidding process, will be initiated for constructing the plant. No bidder would have a predefined advantage in this process. It also provided companies with considerable incentives to propose new ideas.

The plant would be implemented under a design, build, finance, operate and transfer pattern in the public-private participatory mode. As per the original proposal, the plant, estimated to cost Rs. 350 crore, will be capable of processing 500 tonnes of waste daily.

More In: Kochi