Mumbai: Despite objection, BMC seeks green nod for Deonar waste-to-energy project | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Mumbai: Despite objection, BMC seeks green nod for Deonar waste-to-energy project

ByPrayag Arora-Desai, Mumbai
Aug 11, 2021 10:31 PM IST

BMC’s proposal has been accepted by the state environment impact assessment authority (SEIAA) and is currently under examination by the state-level expert committee

Despite stiff opposition from residents and environmentalists, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on August 6 moved a proposal before the state environment department seeking environment clearance (EC) for its proposed 4MW waste-to-energy (WTE) plant at the Deonar dumping ground. The BMC’s proposal — file number SIA/MH/MIS/47692/2019 — has been accepted by the state environment impact assessment authority (SEIAA) and is currently under examination by the state-level expert appraisal committee (EAC).

Deonar dumping ground.
Deonar dumping ground.

BMC’s application for a green nod follows an online public hearing held on April 27, during which the project was met with criticism from those in attendance, particularly people living near the landfill. The minutes of the public hearing (which have been reviewed by Hindustan Times) does not reflect the widespread nature of the objections raised and have instead been drafted in a question-and-answer format which suggests that citizens’ queries regarding the project have been resolved.

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Several participants had pointed out that the WTE model has seen little success in other parts of the country, and should not be replicated in Mumbai. “Our main contention was that this project will not solve the problem of waste dumping in Deonar. On the contrary, we need to enforce source segregation. The minutes of the public hearing does not reflect any cognisance of the ecological pitfalls of this waste to the energy model. We had also requested that the public hearing itself be postponed to another date given that we were in the middle of a surge in Covid cases in April. That request was cleanly denied,” said environmentalist Anand Pendharkar.

The broad argument posited by environmentalists was that the WTE model incentivises the production of waste instead of focusing on source segregation. Across Europe and even China, they had noted, WTE plants are being proactively shut down because they emit carcinogenic dioxins and furans. Moreover, given poor waste management practices in Indian cities, the calorific value of waste is low making it unsuitable for incineration and all the more harmful, emissions wise.

“One important point which has not been reflected in that the draft environmental impact assessment (EIA) report was not made widely available before hearing. It is stated in the minutes that copies of the report were available at certain offices, but how are citizens, especially those who will be affected most by the project, supposed to know this? The report should have been placed online,” said Bilal Khan, a social worker who has been engaged with the local community living around Deonar for several years.

Khan had pointed out, during the public hearing, that only 100 people were in attendance for the consultation whereas the population of the M East ward is at least nine lakh. “It is not acceptable to push a project without conducting any ground-level engagement,” Khan added. BMC officials, however, cited the ongoing pandemic as a hurdle and said that all rules of the union environment ministry related to public consultations have been followed in the matter.

“All comments, feedback and objections have been duly noted. The expert appraisal committee will consider them and take appropriate action,” said Minesh Pimple, deputy chief engineer, solid waste management (projects), BMC.

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