Waste-to-energy plant will derail segregation, say experts

The plant is proposed to be built on the city outskirts, at Chikkanagamangala

Published - December 10, 2018 12:55 am IST

Civic officials are keen on setting up a waste-to-energy plant at Chikkanagamangala on the city's outskirts. The MoU was signed early this year, but experts remain sceptical of its efficacy and argue that waste-to-energy plants have not had much success given the composition of municipal waste generated here. As such plants accept mixed waste, there are fears that it may derail the solid waste management plan that stresses on segregation of waste at source.

Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Commissioner N. Manjunath Prasad, however, said that the civic body would continue to stress on the importance of segregation and a decentralised garbage processing mechanism.

“I accompanied Deputy Chief Minister G. Parameshwara and Additional Chief Secretary Mahendra Jain on a visit to a waste-to-energy plant in France. It has advanced technology that segregates waste using sensors. There is no need for human intervention,”he said.

Many of the plants, he said, were in the heart of the cities. “Germany has as many as 68 waste-to-energy plants when the population is just around 8 crore," he added.

However, garbage generated by Indian households has a higher composition of wet waste. It is the opposite in countries like France and Germany where nearly 70% of the waste is dry waste, said N.S. Ramakanth, waste management expert and member of the Solid Waste Management Round Table.

Costs are higher in India

"With a higher composition of wet waste, the calorific value of garbage will be reduced. This is one of the main reasons why waste-to-energy plants have failed in India. The cost of generation of electricity will be high — nearly ₹10/ unit, which is not cost effective at all," said Mr. Ramakanth.

Mr. Prasad, though, believes the technology can be adapted for Indian conditions, taking into account the higher composition of wet waste. Another hitch in the government’s plan is the opposition to the proposed setting of the plant at Chikkanagamangala. Experts cited a recent study undertaken by a research and consulting firm, Feedback Consulting, on similar projects commissioned in various parts of the country. It was found that waste-to-energy plants continued to face serious challenges. None of the plants could be classified as being remotely successful, it noted and added that a successful pilot project is needed before plunging headlong into such projects as a panacea for Indian cities.

V. Ravichandar, urban expert, told The Hindu that lower calorific value of the municipal waste generated here will have a bearing on the cost, making power generation expensive. “The State government needs to speak the language of segregation and decentralised processing. Achieving 100% segregation may not be possible but they can, under the radar, look for projects to process the minimum quantity of mixed waste," he said.

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