India’s bid to earn money through waste-to-power projects faces opposition from people in Delhi. Residents are wary of the plants coming up near their doorsteps, and ragpickers say they will lose their only means of livelihood.
The Delhi government plans to set up three waste-to-energy projects in Okhla, Timparpur and Gazipur to generate 41 MW of power.
The projects are registered under Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the United National Framework Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC). This would enable the government to earn credits on the amount of carbon emission saved.
Conceptually, the projects look fine, but for over five lakh ragpickers in the city, it is a question of survival. “We earn R50 to R100 per day by collecting recyclable items from garbage disposal sites,” said Raju Rajasthani, a ragpicker at Bhalswa municipal dump in north Delhi. “If the entire lot of garbage is treated at plants, we will become redundant,” he added.
Some of them had taken the protest to a meeting of 195 countries under UNFCCC in Copenhagen in 2009 and Cancun in 2010. They argued that unless a part of the money earned through CDM is provided for their welfare, any type of waste-to-energy projects should not be considered. They have also launched a national campaign against waste-to-energy projects.
Residents of Okhla, Jamia Nagar, Ghaffar Manzil, Abul Fazl Enclave and Noor Nagar support the ragpickers, but for a different reason: they are protesting against the location of the proposed Okhla plant since it is close to their homes, rather than the concept. “The plant will ruin the environment near our houses,” said Jamia Nagar resident KS Ahmed. Even hospitals in the area — Apollo, Holy Family and Fortis Escorts — support the protest.
Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has asked Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit to look into the issues raised by people. “I am not against the concept of waste-to-energy projects. But if people are protesting, they should be discussed properly,” Ramesh said. A white paper by the ministry says the plants will emit toxic substances, which may harm the public.
The first waste-to-energy project may be commissioned in June this year. The remaining two will be completed in two years. “People’s concerns are being heard but some NGOs are trying to create problems,” said a Municipal Corporation of Delhi officer, who is involved in the projects. “Waste-to-energy plants will help us keep the city cleaner,” said a Delhi government official.