Residents of Okhla in south Delhi, who have been complaining that toxic fumes from a garbage-burning plant in their neighbourhood impair their health, have got a crusader in Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan.
On his TV show Satyamev Jayate aired on Sunday, the 48-year-old actor said, “This is very dangerous. We're destroying air, water and land meant for us as well as the next generations. We're turning garbage, which is actually an asset, into poison.”
Aamir ran a clip on the plant. It said, “A big plant to deal with the problem of garbage has been operating in south Delhi for the last two years. It burns garbage. But since it started functioning, it has opened a floodgate of problems for local people.”
The actor himself said, “Though there are so many simple and good options to manage waste, the government is trying to use a new technology…only god knows what havoc it will wreak.” He asked people to segregate waste at home reuse, recycle and treat the rest.
Aamir said he had invited eight municipal commissioners, including three from Delhi. “While seven didn’t even respond, one said he cannot come,” he said.
The programme featured several affected residents. Bawa RP Singh, said, “We have breathing problems because of the emissions.” Two women, Manju Dua and Sudha Garg, said, “We suffer joint pain. We have itching in eyes. Cloths that we hang for drying turn black. There's a foul smell.” While Ranjit Devraj said there are days when ash falls on houses, cloths and cars, Arif said, “Doctors say we face the threat of cancer.”
The main question that the programme raised was: “Are these plants an option to deal with the problem of garbage?” Delhi-based environmentalist Ravi Agarwal said on the show: “This technology is much in use in the West. But incinerators cannot produce energy in India because 70 per cent of the waste is wet. Through these dangerous emissions, we are actually creating landfills in the skies.”
“Dioxins produced are very dangerous and can cause genetic damage to future generations. Heavy metals such as lead can permanently damage the IQ of children,” he said. Aamir said he would take the matter up with government authorities.
The current status of the plant
* A Parliament panel has sought closure of the plant.
* National Green Tribunal has ordered surprise inspections at the plant.
* The plant, set up in December 2011, is supposed to burn 1,950 tonnes of solid waste and produce 16 MW of electricity.
* Residents say they have been protesting seeking relief from what they say smothering smoke and ash.
* Residents claim burning of mixed waste produces toxic ash containing heavy metals such as lead and mercury.