The inflexible land policy of chief minister Mamata Banerjee may actually generate some electrical energy for her state. Faced with a situation where it cannot procure about 247 acre land required for setting up a new garbage dump, in a last-ditch effort, Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) has turned to companies that turn garbage into power to get rid of the 3,500 tonnes of waste that the city generates.
The current 88-acre dump at Dhapa is overflowing and is unfit for further use. KMC is at its wits’ end on how to deal with the solid waste generated by the city as it simply can’t find an alternative site though the search has been going on for well over five years.A desperate KMC had floated tenders inviting ‘expressions of interest’ for setting up ‘waste-to-energy’ (WTE) plants and three companies have responded to them.
“The WTE project would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, prevent environmental damage from landfills and provide reliable renewable energy,” member, mayor-in-council (solid waste management), KMC, Debabrata Majumder said.
Though waste-to-energy projects have been discussed for years, no plant is operating in Bengal. “There are viability issues as the procedure is expensive,” said a KMC engineer.
To reduce the cost, KMC is planning to supply the raw material — the garbage — free of cost to the companies that are finally selected for the project. KMC officials said that though three companies had evinced interest, only two — Astonfield Renewable Resources and Ramky Group of Companies — are in the fray.
“We will supply municipal wastes to both the interested companies for their WTE plants, which would mean the compulsion of dumping garbage at the existing landfill at Dhapa would reduce manifold, renewing its life for the next 15-20 years,” Arun Sarkar, principal technical advisor on solid waste management to KMC said.
According to plan, the companies would have to own at least five acres within 20 km from the KMC headquarters at Esplanade. These companies need to obtain all necessary approvals, including environmental clearance, from regulatory agencies.“We have allowed the companies one month for finalising the land,” the MMiC said.
According to KMC engineers, 1,000 kilocalorie per kg is the calorific value of the municipal wastes in Kolkata. The garbage in western countries has a far higher value — 3,500 kilocalorie per kg — simply because it is dry. “Our municipal wastes contain 50% moisture while wastes in the West are dry because of the people’s food habits and manner of segregation of waste,” Sarkar said.