Ghonda Gujran waste plant will poison Yamuna: Experts
Protests against the proposed integrated waste management facility at Ghonda Gujran in north-east Delhi gathered momentum on Thursday with experts and activists saying it could spell disaster as the land falls under the ‘O’ zone and leachate from the facility could destroy the aquifers present in the river’s flood plains.
On Monday, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) had allocated the 42.5-acre plot in Ghonda Gujran to the East Delhi Municipal Corporation for the proposed facility. Experts have demanded a roll-back of the decision.
Even though a principal committee appointed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had rejected the proposal in September 2017, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in 2018 gave it a go-ahead saying “a portion of Ghonda Gujran (approximately 50 acres) could be allotted to the EDMC because it is in a ‘no-flood zone’”.
According to senior DDA and EDMC officials aware of the developments, the Ghonda Gujran area falls under ‘O’ zone — the riverfront zone. They, however, said the plot identified for the proposed plant was not on the flood plains, which has already been demarcated.
“The plot falls under the O zone, but not under floodplains,” a senior DDA official said. The CPCB’s note also says that the site doesn’t fall under the floodplains and is at least 1,950 metre away from the ‘water body’. Activists, however, disagree.
“The alloted plot falls under an active floodplain. It was inundated by flood water in 2008, 2010 and 2013. What more evidence do the authorities need,” said Manoj Misra, convener of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan.
The NGT’s principal committee had even expressed its concern over the leachate problem. “It was observed that the proposed site falls in the floodplain. Therefore, a landfill site or municipal solid waste processing facility could lead to potential hazard to human lives as well the flora and fauna dependant on the river’s water,” the principal committee had noted.
Even though the EDMC said the proposed facility is not a landfill site and will be developed as an integrated waste management facility, which includes a waste-to-energy (WTE) plant, a bio-methanation plant and a construction and demolition debris processing facility, activists said leachate from the plant could pollute the underground aquifers.
Since the landfill will be situated near the river, garbage, and toxic leachate could flow into to the water body and cause a health crisis due to the increased toxicity in drinking water. Leachate may also be absorbed in the underground water table , therefore polluting the aquifers.
“There is no landfill that does not finally leak. Various studies show that from Ghazipur in Delhi to Pallavaram in Chennai, each one has irreversibly poisoned the aquifers as the leachate from the waste goes into groundwater. The toxins include heavy metals such as cadmium and nickel,” said Chitra Mukherjee, head (advocacy and policy) at Chintan, an organisation working on solid waste management.
She quoted a study conducted by Jawaharlal Nehru University’s environment department between 2012 and 2013 that revealed that the ground soil of the area around Ghazipur harboured organic pollutants which exceeded the permissible limits by up to 158 times.
“It will have to be cleared by the Union environment ministry. If it has any shortcomings, it won’t be cleared,” Dilraj Kaur, EDMC commissioner , said.
A senior EDMC official said the plant would not have any leachate problems because the garbage will be treated the same day. Leachate forms when the waste is allowed to stand for several days.
“There are problems of residue and reject from the waste-to-energy plant and bio-methanation plant. Where will you dump the residue or reject? It has to go the sameland fill site,” said a professor of civil engineering department of IIT Delhi, who refused to be named.