After Okhla, Narela waste-to-energy plant in Delhi seeks capacity boost

Updated on Jan 24, 2023 12:51 AM IST

Waste to energy plants incinerate municipal solid waste to generate electricity. Experts say that such facilities cause pollution and describe them as short cuts in handling waste, circumvent procedures such as waste segregation.

The move comes over a month after the expansion at the plant in Okhla was approved by the expert appraisal committee (EAC) under the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC). (HT Archive)
The move comes over a month after the expansion at the plant in Okhla was approved by the expert appraisal committee (EAC) under the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC). (HT Archive)

The Delhi Pollution Control Committee has launched public consultations for the proposed capacity upgrade at the Narela waste-to-energy (WtE) plant from the current 24MW to 60MW, officials aware of the development said on Monday.

The move comes over a month after the expansion at the plant in Okhla was approved by the expert appraisal committee (EAC) under the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC). Local residents had opposed the expansion, citing increased pollution in their area and several violations of pollution control norms by the plant.

Waste to energy plants incinerate municipal solid waste to generate electricity. Experts say that such facilities cause pollution and describe them as short cuts in handling waste, circumvent procedures such as waste segregation.

The Narela plant was launched in February 2017. It is run by M/s. Delhi MSW Solutions Ltd. (DMSWSL) which developed the 24 MW unit within an integrated solid waste management facility at a site notified by Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD).

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According to a DPCC order, a copy of which HT has seen, “The expansion of the existing WtE project has been recommended by the mayor of the erstwhile north Delhi Municipal Corporation and the Delhi LG for alleviating the mammoth task of municipal solid waste in Delhi. Now, the project proponent has proposed to expand the capacity of the plant from 24MW to 60MW in the same premises. The existing facility has a processing capacity of 4000 tonnes of waste per day (TPD).”

Currently. Delhi has four waste to energy plants one each at Ghazipur, Narela, Okhla and Tehkhand. While the Tehkhand plant became operational in October 2022, all three plants were fined 5 lakh each in August 2021, after the values of pollutants were found exceeding the permissible limits.

Experts have been calling for a switch from WtE plants, highlighting how have they been exceeding permitted emission levels. They have argued that by simply tackling wet waste in Delhi, Delhi can manage half of its own waste organically. “We are creating more WtE plants and expanding the current ones, instead of finding solutions for wet waste. It is this same wet waste which ends up at landfill sites and causes build up of methane and leads to landfill fires,” said Bharati Chaturvedi, founder and director of Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group, and added that despite protests by local residents and past violations, environmental clearances were still being granted to these plants.

“We are also in an environmental emergency and the first good air day last year was only in September. In such a scenario and even when the plant gets fined for causing pollution, it is allowed to continue to operate by paying a small amount and that sets the wrong precedent,” she adds.

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Atin Biswas, a waste management expert and programme director of the municipal solid waste sector at the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), said that WtE are seen as easy solutions to bypass segregation of waste at source, which was non-negotiable for sustainable waste management.

“Mixed waste being used as feedstock in almost all the functional WtE plants. In a city like Delhi where the citizens are already having to breathe in a polluted air, the decision to increase capacity of another WtE plant cannot be supported,” Biswas said, and added that such plants work only when high calorific value waste is utilised.

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