Is the proposed waste-to-energy plant in Okhla a threat to the health of local residents and environment of the city? The country’s apex pollution watchdog will investigate and advise the Centre regarding the suspected hazard.
Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh visited the contentious spot in south Delhi on Thursday with officials from Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the Delhi government and interacted with irate residents who have been demanding a relocation of the plant.
“I have asked the CPCB to prepare a detailed report on this,” Ramesh said after instructing CPCB chairman SP Gautam, who was part of the visiting team.
One of the key concerns that emerged during the interaction with residents was the repeated complaint that the mandatory public hearing conducted before the sanction of the project was a “sham” — it did not have representation from the civil society and local residents.
“Documents show that three government officials were the only ones attending the so-called public hearing, which cleared the project,” said Asha Arora, member, Okhla Anti-incinerator Committee, a group of local residents spearheading the campaign.
“The government officials have told the minister that residents have woken up now when the plant is almost ready, but the fact is, we have been fighting a court battle on the issue for the past two years,” said Arora.
The residents have found support in local politicians, some of whom were present during the visit. One of them from the nearby Jamia Nagar area pointed out to the minister that the proposed plant was in close proximity to the Jamia Millia Islamia university, Holy Family Hospital, several schools and institutions.
The residents have been seeking the minister’s intervention for long. It was after meeting them for the first time that Ramesh wrote a letter to the Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit a few weeks ago, requesting her to look into the complaints.
“We will stall traffic on Mathura Road to get the authorities take note of our demand. The officials are ignoring the health threats to more than six lakh residents,” she said.
The waste-to-energy plant will accumulate municipal solid waste and incinerate it to produce electricity. But in the process, the fumes emitted from its chimneys will contain toxic gases called dioxin and furan, exposure to which causes cancer.