Today's Paper

TNPCB dumps waste-to-energy project

CHENNAI OCT. 3 . The fate of the Chennai Corporation's `waste-to-energy' project has been sealed with the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board refusing to clear it on grounds of environmental concern.

According to the TNPCB, the project technology was `unsafe' and even in the Australian province of Wollongong (where it was said to have been tested), it was not safely demonstrated. ``A communication in this regard was sent about a month ago to the Secretaries of the Industries and Municipal Administration and Water Supply departments'', a senior board official said.

About two years ago, the project first came into the spotlight when the Corporation signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Energy Developments Limited to produce energy from waste. The company was to set up a 14.5-MW plant at Perungudi. The Rs.-180-crore project was to be constructed on a build, own and operate basis and the civic agency should provide 600 tonnes of garbage a day for power generation.

The technology was promoted by an international company, Brightstar Environmental. A pilot project, executed in Wollongong, showed positive results, the promoters claimed. But even as the Corporation evinced a keen interest in the project, several enviromentalists expressed a fear that the gasification technology, claimed by the company, was as harmful as incineration and would eventually lead to emissions of dioxins.

However, there was not much progress in the last two years. But, the present Commissioner, M. Kalaivanan, even on the first day of taking charge (this June), said he would do his best to make the project a reality. And the civic body made efforts in this direction.

But now, its renewed effort has come to a dead-end. The bone of contention between the TNPCB and the Corporation was their basic philosophy of dealing with waste. While the TNPCB was for initiation of source segregation and other `green' practices, the civic agency cited lack of funds for not implementing the board advice. Also, the Corporation officials threw up their hands at the general lack of civic sense. ``Source segregation can happen only when the public cooperate. But unlike as in Bangalore or Hyderabad, the public response here to conservancy measures has not been very encouraging,'' said a senior official of the civic body.

Nevertheless, the civic agency is now working on a `desi' formula of mixing waste plastic with bitumen to lay `stronger' roads. This technology has been developed by R.Vasudevan, head of the department of Chemistry of the Thiagarajar College, Madurai, and his team. According to the team's findings, polymers such as polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene can be heated with bitumen at temperatures close to 160 degrees celsius without emission of dioxins. Roads laid with the specially-prepared bitumen have been scientifically proven to be in better shape.

The Corporation officials view this option as a means of achieving two goals - better roads and safe disposal of plastic waste, which constitutes nearly eight per cent of the garbage on the Perungudi and Kodungaiyur yards. This would require segregation of polyethlene, polyproplene and polystyrene.

While it is examining the technology, the TNPCB is of the view that even if Dr.Vasudevan's methodology helps in strengthening the roads, it is no solution for reduction of plastic waste.

Recommended for you