Delhi's Jindal Urban Infrastructure plant's waste emission chokes the life out of residents slowly
Operated by Jindal Urban Infrastructure Ltd, the plant produces energy from waste brought from areas under the jurisdiction of South Delhi Municipal Corporation, NDMC, Delhi Cantonment.
NEW DELHI: D K Maheshwari, a resident of Sukhdev Vihar in South East Delhi, was diagnosed with a lung disease and respiratory issues. After a 61-day treatment at a private hospital, he was well for a while but the problem recurred. Now, he is undergoing treatment at the AIIMS.
Maheshwari is not alone. Swatanter, 82, who lives in the same colony for 30 years, has breathing issues and persistent cough for the last three months. Both of them blame the Okhla Waste-To-Energy (WTE) plant situated just within 50-100 meters of their houses. Going by the rules, it should have been located at least 300-500 meters away from residential zones.
Every other house in Sukhdev Vihar has locals suffering from respiratory issues, bronchitis, asthma, and even cancer. While the residents are fighting for years to shut down the plant, the Delhi government has instead announced to expand its capacity from 16 MW to 40 MW.
Operated by Jindal Urban Infrastructure Ltd, the plant produces energy from waste brought from areas under the jurisdiction of South Delhi Municipal Corporation, New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC), and Delhi Cantonment. It was designed to use environment-friendly technology like bio methanation and Refused Derived Fuel (RDF), and then burn the waste. However, the municipalities are allegedly burning the waste with diesel without segregating it.
In September last year, a joint inspection by the Central Pollution Control Board and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee informed the NGT that the three WTEs, including this one at Okhla, are not complying with emission standards and are causing air pollution.
Three hospitals and doctors had written multiple times to the MoEF and the Delhi government about the environmental health hazards, but they were of no avail. “Nowhere will you find an incinerator burning unsegregated waste at this proximity to residences. The plant releases toxic chemicals — dioxin and furans — and we have asked CPCB to collect samples,” claims Ranjit Devraj, a resident
The CPCB has, however, informed the NGT that it does not have any in-house mechanism to collect samples or analyse these chemicals.
On Thursday, the Air Quality Index of the area was 1125, much above the safe limits and also above the city’s average. “We can’t open the windows even for a minute. Besides the foul smell and burning sensation, the house fills with dust and ash,” says Shashi Pravah, a retired school teacher.
Another resident complains that clothes left to dry outside “turn black within minutes”.
Even residents of other colonies such as Jasola, and Haji Colony also complain of having no choice but to inhale toxic gases. “I have this constant irritation in the body. Whenever I go away for a week or so, it becomes okay. I purchased a flat at Jasola Heights two years ago. Had I known about this issue, I would have never come here,” rues Dr Idrees Qureshi.
Ravinder Kumar, a businessman, claims the plant itself is illegal. “We have been fighting for years (to close the plant down). There, however, has been no relief from any government agency.”
The DDA had originally alloted the land to the NDMC to set up a sewage treatment plant. The residents first opposed it in 2003 when the plant was in the planning stage. Since then, they have been trying to get it closed.
“Chest infection, cardiac issues, and asthma have multiplied in the last few years. This is like genocide. If the coal -fired Badarpur plant was shut down, why not this one?” contends Dr Madhup Kumar, who resides in the colony for 32 years now.