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Don’t rubbish this idea

mumbai Updated: Mar 25, 2011 01:51 IST
Snehal Rebello

Next year, when a landscaped garden opens in Gorai, people will literally take their morning walks over tons of rotting garbage.

The manicured garden will be spread over a 35-mt hillock, which till about three years ago was the Gorai dumping ground where 2,200 tons of garbage was dumped every day.

After a rap from the Bombay High Court while it was hearing a petition highlighting the perils of the mounds of rotting garbage that emitted methane, a greenhouse gas that damages the ozone layer, the civic body proposed a scientific closure of the dump site in 2007.

Today, as part of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC’s) Rs 45-crore closure plan, under the garden lie 36 wells that trap methane gas and toxic leachate water emitted from the 2.3 million tons of compressed garbage
accumulated since 1972.

The captured methane is flared (burned) at 800-1,000 degrees Celsius before being released into the environment as harmless air through a 20-ft chimney. This not only contributes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions but will also earn the BMC about Rs 96.5 crore through carbon credits.

Carbon credits are a tradable permit scheme, which provides monetary incentives to developing nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Having scientifically capped the 19.6-hectare dump, the BMC in 2009 became the first civic body in India to earn and encash carbon credits.

From carbon to credit
In September 2009, the BMC received its first advance cheque of Rs 24.51 crore from the Asian Development Bank based on a 2008 Emission Reduction Purchase Agreement. According to the agreement, the bank would buy carbon credits — measured in units of Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) — generated at the Gorai dump where about 500 to 900 cubic mt of methane is flared every day.

Each ton of carbon gets you one carbon credit. Flaring a ton of methane is equal to reducing 21 tons of carbon. The Asian Development Bank pays $16 (about Rs 720) in exchange for each credit. A credit gives the owner the right to emit one ton of carbon dioxide.

“By 2015, the BMC expects to receive another Rs 72 crore from carbon credits,” said Bhalchandra Patil, chief engineer, solid waste management department, BMC.

The gas released after flaring methane also holds the potential for an alternative source of energy. The BMC is exploring the option of setting up a one-megawatt power plant is at the site in 2012.

Opening next year
India is one of the few countries still using open garbage dumps. The success of the Gorai project could give hope to a solution replicable elsewhere in India.

Meanwhile in Gorai, with the mounds of garbage disappearing under the green manicured lawn, local residents are pleased. “We never thought we could live here without the stink of garbage. The closure is a blessing,” said Shilpa Desai, a resident.

Though the garden is laid, residents will have to wait till 2012 to use it. “Though there is nothing wrong with the gas released, we are waiting till the emission is reduced. Within a year, it should be open for the public,” said Suketu Shah, UPL Environmental Engineers Ltd, which is carrying out the project.