Bandhwari landfill: Citizens voice opposition to WTE plant at hearing
Citizens, including environmentalists, doctors and residents of villages near Bandhwari, on Tuesday, voiced their opposition to a proposed waste-to-energy (WTE) plant at the Bandhwari landfill during a public hearing held by the Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB).
The hearing took place under a makeshift canopy at the foothills of the landfill, amid rain and heavy police presence. At least 150 citizens attended the meeting to interact with officials of the district administration, Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG), HSPCB and Ecogreen Energy, the MCG’s concessionaire for waste management.
Among the key points raised by environmentalists and villagers was that the refuse-derived fuel (RDF) from the Bandhwari waste plant can be transported to the recently opened WTE in Sonepat for processing. Doctors opposed the project, citing health hazards, while residents also cited the example of three WTEs in Delhi being fined ₹5 lakh each for violating air pollution norms earlier this month.
In addition, environmentalists also wanted a change in MCG’s localised composting strategy, from focussing on RWAs to setting up large-scale units in each ward. Around 1,800 tonnes of waste is transported from Gurugram and Faridabad to the Bandhwari landfill daily.
“The main contention for building the WTE is for clearing legacy waste. The MCG should, instead, focus on strengthening its localised composting and recycling units. If both of these work at their optimum capacity, only 7-8% of the city’s waste would need to be dumped at the Bandhwari landfill,” said Vaishali Rana, a city-based environmentalist.
Rana further brought up the point that the MCG should transport RDF to Sonepat, where a WTE project has been commissioned, and that the Haryana government should focus on increasing its capacity to process additional waste from Gurugram and Faridabad.
“In terms of logistics, Sonepat is less than 100 kilometres away. The MCG and the Haryana government can transfer Bandhwari’s RDF to the existing Sonepat plant, which can be upgraded to process further waste instead of spending money on building a new one,” said Rana.
The public hearing on Tuesday was the second one held regarding the project, after the first hearing was held in March 2018. Public hearings are a prerequisite for getting environmental clearance from the ministry of environment, forest, and climate change (MoEF&CC) for setting up a WTE project.
With regard to the Bandhwari landfill, environmental clearance for setting up a 15 megawatt (MW) capacity WTE was granted in November 2019. The public hearing on Tuesday was held to discuss the proposed expansion of its capacity to 25 MW, besides general issues concerning a WTE plant.
Ruchika Sethi, an environmentalist and representative of Citizens for Clean Air, a Gurugram-based citizens’ group to fight air pollution, said that the MCG needs to change its strategy of recycling, segregation, and processing of waste on a localised level.
“Currently, all compost plants in the city are managed by RWAs within their townships, societies, and condominiums. The problem with such a strategy is that it does not take into account the waste generated by villages and small pockets of independent houses. Only 30% of the city’s total waste is generated in the RWA area. The MCG, instead, needs to set up large-scale composting and recycling units on a ward-wise basis,” said Sethi.
Members of the Aravalli Bachao Group called for the public hearing to be declared “null and void” and instead, asked authorities to hold meetings with active citizens of Gurugram and Faridabad, along with solid waste management experts.
“Cities such as Indore, Ambikapur in Chattisgarh, and towns in Kerala are managing their waste without creating toxic WTE plants. We want the authorities to call for a roundtable of active citizens of Gurugram and Faridabad and solid waste management experts from around the country to discuss sustainable models for the two cities,” said Neelam Ahluwalia, a member of the Aravalli Bachao Group.
Kuldeep Singh, the regional officer of Gurugram (North), HSPCB, who was one of the officials chairing the public hearing, said, “All opinions, suggestions, and concerns raised in today’s public hearing will be documented and sent to HSPCB headquarters in Panchkula for perusal. Subsequently, the application process for environmental clearance for the WTE project would be sent to MoEF along with the points raised in the public hearing. The entire process will take its due course of time.”
A senior MCG official who attended the meeting, on the condition of anonymity, said, “There is around 2.5 million tonnes of legacy waste at the Bandhwari landfill. The WTE is needed for expediting its clearance. Suggestions, questions, claims, and objections received in today’s public hearing will be uploaded on the website of MCG and HSPCB. We have also agreed to organise a roundtable meeting with waste management experts, environmentalists in the near future for further discussion on the matter.”