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Sreelatha Menon: Who will clear the garbage?
As cities struggle to clear their wastes, companies like IL&FS are
ready to do the job
Urban India is moving towards some sort of nirvana as far as
consumption is concerned. We are consuming like never before. And too many of
us are consuming at the same place â€” urban perches like Delhi, Mumbai and other
cities. This is resulting in the generation of much more garbage than we ever
did. We have mountains of waste, such as the one in Ghazipur on the outskirts
In Bangalore, Kochi, Thrissur and wherever urbanization is rampant,
people are up in arms against authorities over the gathering waste.
Smelling opportunity, the industry has stepped in â€“ in a big way â€“ in
the waste management sector. This has rung alarm bells among environmentalists.
The Jindals started a waste-to-energy plant in Okhla, Delhi but people in the
neighborhood, along with environmentalists, moved court saying fumes from
incinerators would kill them.
Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (IL&FSâ€™) environment
wing has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Delhi municipality to
process the waste in Ghazipur. The project will generate 12 MW of power from
the incoming waste. It remains to be seen if fumes would terrify the people in
the area, too. IL&FS Managing Director (Environment) Mahesh Babu is
â€śWe will ensure no fumes come out and the monitoring will be so
transparent that no one would complain,â€ť he says. He is ready to allow any
non-governmental organization (NGO) to perform third-party monitoring to assure
themselves, and others, about its safety. The main activity of the plant is
processing, and the energy it generates is only a byproduct.
He believes that India should follow the Chinese model and subsidize
power bought from such projects. However, the Rs 230 crore project raises
skepticism in environmentalists like Rajeev Betne, the senior programme
coordinator at NGO Toxics Link.
He questions the wisdom of turning wastes into a business input, saying
it would lead to an unsustainable growth model that encourages more
As for the dilemma between a mountain of wastes being constantly
refurbished and an incinerator that promises not to let out fumes, he says
without the assurance of transparent monitoring and segregation at source, one
would never know what goes into the plant and what comes out. It might include
industrial wastes, plastics, mercury and other materials, which could produce
fumes causing deadly diseases, he says.
Out of the 2,000-tonne capacity of the plant, 1,300 tonnes would come
daily from the Delhi municipality. Babu dismisses the fear of â€śdangerous
inputsâ€ť into the plant as â€śirrationalâ€ť. â€śWe want NGOs to help us, and not
prevent processing of wastes. Our pre-segregation equipment and workforce would
ensure that no dangerous inputs go for incineration. We would follow Euro Norms
on our outputs,â€ť he says.
If nothing was done, the city would face a deluge of wastes, he warns,
and urges environmentalists to be scientific rather than irrational. â€śHow can
we make people consume more?â€ť he asks. The plant would be open for anyone to
inspect and daily outputs would be displayed on the companyâ€™s website for all
to see, he adds.
Thus, a city struggles to get rid of its wastes amid trepidation
whether the medicine would be worse than the disease.
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