4-MW waste-to-energy plant at Deonar: Mumbaiites oppose plan

Updated on Apr 28, 2021 01:00 AM IST

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s proposal to set up a 4-megawatt (4MW) waste-to-energy (WTE) plant at the Deonar dumping ground was largely met with objections from citizens and experts, during an online public hearing on Tuesday, organised as per the procedure for obtaining environmental clearance (EC)

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ByPrayag Arora-Desai

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s proposal to set up a 4-megawatt (4MW) waste-to-energy (WTE) plant at the Deonar dumping ground was largely met with objections from citizens and experts, during an online public hearing on Tuesday, organised as per the procedure for obtaining environmental clearance (EC). Several attendees also raised objections as a copy of the draft environment impact assessment (EIA) report has not been shared publicly, as per the rules of the Environment Impact Assessment Notification (2006), for the project.

“Central guidelines clearly state that the full EIA report is to be shared publicly in multiple languages, 30 days before the public hearing. This is a crucial step towards educating people about the projected benefits and pitfalls of a certain project, which has been completely sidestepped by BMC. How are stakeholders expected to make their decisions based on incomplete information,” said Shweta Bhatt, director (conservation) of Conservation Action Trust.

The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) has only shared an executive summary of the EIA report on its website. As per the document, the project is being executed at a cost of 504 crore. An environment management plan (EMP) has also been drawn up with a capital cost of 815 lakh and recurring cost annual cost of 96 lakh.

“An additional air pollution control plan has also been put in place with a budget of 25 crore,” said Minesh Pimple from BMC’s solid waste management department.

In response to citizens’ objections, Pimple said BMC will be putting up a copy of the full draft EIA report under the ‘solid waste management’ section of its website.

“The executive summary covers the project in totality. But as some people are seeking more technical information, the full report is being uploaded on our website. Any inquiries based on that should be directed to us by Monday [May 3],” he added.

Bhatt, among other attendees, also pointed out that the WTE model has seen little success as well as public resistance in other parts of the country.

“This model incentivises the production of waste instead of focusing on-source segregation. Across Europe, WTE plants are being shut down because they emit carcinogenic dioxins and furans. In India, the calorific value of waste is low, making it unsuitable for incineration and more harmful, emissions wise,” said Sushant Bali, an environmentalist who attended Tuesday’s meeting.

Moreover, of the 100-odd attendees who were present during the online hearing, only one, Mejaz Ansari, was a resident of the area.

“There are lakhs of people who live near the Deonar garbage dump whose lives are already affected. Most of them will not able to attend online hearings. This public hearing should be delayed till the Covid-19 situation has improved. How can a public hearing be held when the people most directly concerned cannot attend,” said Ansari.

BMC officials, however, maintained that the project is essential to tackle Mumbai’s burgeoning waste problem.

“People need to understand that our aim is not power generation, but eliminating waste. Take any country in Europe where source segregation is done. It has taken them decades to reach there. The larger public does not follow the solid waste management rules at source, necessitating such an intervention,” said Pimple, clarifying that a second public hearing would not be held, despite citizens’ requests.

The Deonar dumping ground is India’s oldest landfill, set up in 1927. Currently, the site receives 800 tonnes of solid mixed waste and 1,200 tonnes of construction and demolition waste each day.

As per the summary EIA, “Entire waste is being dumped in an unorganised way. This causes environmental damage, which makes the surrounding areas of Chembur, Govandi and Mankhrud unfit for habitation.”

The proposed WTE plant is being built at a budget of just over 500 crore, and will produce 4MW of power. BMC’s proposal allows for expansion up to 8MW. An area of 12 hectares has been earmarked within the dumpsite to set up the power plant. The terms of reference were granted by the state environment department last June.

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Monday, November 28, 2022
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