Kolkata Municipal Corporation’s (KMC) ambitious plan to generate electrical energy from the daily garbage of 3,500 tonnes that the city produces is likely to remain a pipe dream.
No bidders have responded to KMC’s proposal to turn garbage into power. The plan had been a last ditch effort to create an alternative to the land crisis.
“As of now, the project is as good as dead. We had given a month’s time to the companies to finalise land, but three months have passed and the response is not at all good,” Debabrata Majumder, member, mayor-in-council (solid waste management), told HT.
Rigid land policy of the Mamata Banerjee government had already put the civic technocrats in a fix since they have realised that procuring about 250 acre land for setting up a new garbage dump could be nearly impossible.
And now, a cold shoulder from both the companies - Astonfield Renewable Resources and Ramky group of companies - who initially expressed interest to set up waste-to-energy (WTE) plants, has further landed the KMC engineers in trouble.
“While Astonfield Renewable Resources had found a land beyond our specified locale, Ramky group of companies is still asking for more time,” Majumder added. The current 88-acre dump yard at Dhapa is overflowing and is unfit for further use. KMC is at its wits’ end on how to deal with the solid waste generated by the city daily, as it simply can’t find an alternative site in spite of searching for the last five years.
A desperate KMC had floated tenders inviting ‘expressions of interest’ for setting up WTE plants to which three companies had responded.
To reduce cost, KMC had plans to supply the raw material - the garbage - free of cost to the companies that are finally selected for the project.
“We had plans to supply municipal waste to both the interested companies for their WTE plants, which would mean the compulsion of dumping garbage at the existing Dhapa dump yard would not be there, renewing its life for the next 15-20 years,” Arun Sarkar, principal technical advisor on solid waste management to KMC, told HT.
According to the plan, the companies would have to own at least 5 acres within 20 km of the KMC headquarters at Esplanade.
Though waste-to-energy projects have been discussed for years, not a single plant is operating in Bengal. “There are viability issues as the procedure is expensive,” said a KMC engineer.
According to KMC engineers, 1,000 kilocalories per kg is the calorific value of the municipal waste in Kolkata. The garbage in western countries has a far higher value - 3,500 kilocalorie per kg - simply because it is dry.
“Our municipal waste contains 50% moisture, while wastes in the west are dry because of their food habits and manner of segregation of wastes,” Sarkar said.