Environmentalists are against the Delhi government’s plan to convert the defunct Rajghat power plant into a waste-to-energy (WTE) unit.
Water expert Manoj Mishra has written to the CM explaining how building a WTE unit on the Yamuna floodplain would only harm the river.
According to Mishra, WTE plants should ideally be set up next to landfill sites. “WTE plants, if unavoidable, are always located near an existing landfill site, to reduce the cost and necessity of municipal solid waste (MSW) transportation to the plant from the landfill,” argued Mishra.
But for the Rajghat plant project, there is no nearby landfill site. “In any case there would always be a need to keep a buffer stock of MSW at this site to feed the plant. This in itself would be undesirable given that it is right on the river bed or the flood plain,” he said.
The government last month had formally announced that it would convert the obsolete power station into a WTE plant by next year. The proposed WTE unit will have the capacity to process 4,000 MTD (metric tonnes saily) of solid waste, whereas Delhi produces around 10,000 MTD.
Currently, two such plants in Ghazipur and Okhla produce around 12 and 16 MW of electricity, respectively. Another 1,550 MTD capacity plant in Bawana will be operational by the end of this year.
Explaining his stand, Mishra explained that MSW, under Indian conditions, is either organic (meant to be composted) or full of plastics (which is otherwise recyclable). But once burnt, the latter produces carcinogenic emissions including heavy metals, dioxins and furans – the residue of which remains as waste gases, water or ash.
“These are extremely hard to contain and require very expensive and sophisticated filters, which plant developers often tend to either ignore or if forced by law or otherwise allow them to soon go to seed with poor maintenance. In any case the end result is production of hazardous waste which was in the first place the very reason why the Rajghat thermal power plant was closed down,” he added.