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Witnessing a planning disaster

Despite citizens’ protests, New Delhi is planning to install three waste-to-energy plants. These will generate 15 mega watts of energy, writes Bharati Chaturvedi.

delhi Updated: Jul 28, 2008 00:01 IST

A 21st century city is a site where workers and inhabitants expect to be an honest part of the planning process. Such inclusion is a part of good governance. In Delhi, the government has forgotten this term completely. Instead, despite citizens’ protests, the city is planning to install three waste-to-energy plants. These will generate 15 mega watts of energy. But take note of the perverse economics.

First, the plants will be given free waste and almost free economics. On top of that, it is likely they will receive subsidies to the tune of Rs 1.5 crore. Since their energy will be at approximately twice as expensive as energy from other sources, they will need an additional subsidy. Economically, it’s a disaster.

But here’s the other side. Currently, almost one per cent of Delhi’s poor eke out a livelihood by recycling paper and plastics. These are the materials required to fuel waste to energy plants. Clearly, the government intends to subsidise the recyclers’ competitors, pushing these people out of work. How can any sensible policy make the poor poorer and take away their livelihood by subsidising their competitors at multiple levels? This is one point where both the middle classes and the poor have converged to oppose a plan. This is also where they are ignored. Where has the Bhagidari gone?

Homogenising bio-Diversity

This loss of Bhagidari also seems to happen in rural areas. Several NGO, farmers’ organisations and scientists are shocked at what could happen to India’s bio-diversity. They say new proposals for setting up a single-window, fast-track clearance system for approvals related to Genetically Modified foods in India, called the National Biotechnology Regulation Bill 2008, could spell disaster. This includes setting up a National Biotechnology Regulatory Authority ( NBRA), which will flatten out India’s rich bio-diversity.

The groups site a UN report that points to lack of bio-safety in India and the possibility of bio-terrorism.

If you feel for planet Earth, write to bharati.earthwatch@gmail.com