Waste-to-Energy Plant

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    • Recently, Citizens’ groups objected to the proposed waste-to-energy Bandhwari plant at Gurugram-Faridabad highway.

    About

    • Experts say consequences of the plant on human health and on the Aravali ecosystem will be enormous and irreparable.
    • Several citizens’ groups have written to Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB) raising serious objections on the same.

    What is Waste to Energy (WtE)?

    • Definition: WtE describes the process of utilising waste to generate energy, in the form of electricity, heat or fuels
    • Stakeholders: WtE projects involve a range of stakeholders, from local councils who manage municipal waste, through to businesses in the waste and energy sectors, energy users and generators of waste.

    (Image Courtesy: lexology )

    • WtE facilities fall into two main categories: thermal treatment and biological processing of organic waste. These processes use a range of technologies including combustion, gasification, anaerobic digestion and fermentation. The exact type of technology utilised in any project is dependent on the characteristics of the feedstock waste material. Similarly, the outputs and residues from WtE processes also vary, depending on the nature of the feedstock and the technology used.
    • Renewable energy: WtE is typically considered ’renewable energy’ when organic waste (biomass) is used as the feedstock. However, the use of plastic feedstock in some WtE facilities also requires the use of fossil fuels, diminishing the environmental credentials of such initiatives.

    Benefits of WtE Plants

    • Reduces Landfill Waste:
      • By converting waste to energy, it substantially reduces the amount of waste entering landfills, which can curb greenhouse gases.
    •  Creates a Significant Amount of Energy:
      • One ton of waste can yield between 550 and 700 kilowatt hours—enough to power a person’s home for almost a month.
    • Recycles Excess Waste:
      • The technology used to convert waste into energy also recycles any metal that remains after combustion, including steel and aluminum, further shrinking the amount of unusable waste.
    •  Sustainable Process:
      • The process itself is green, employing the latest pollution control equipment to scrub and filter emissions, preventing their release into the environment.
    • Regulated use of residue as fertilizer:
      • Some WtE processes can produce residues which can be applied to beneficial uses, such as fertiliser, with the nature of the feedstock determining the extent to which residue can be used. If residue is put to such a beneficial use, additional specification, certification and monitoring requirements will apply.

    Challenges

    • Wrong incentives: 
      • It is important that an appropriate balance is struck so that the demand for WtE feedstock does not incentivise the creation of more waste. For example, a business may relax its waste reduction or recycling efforts if its waste is feeding WtE production to create energy at lower cost.
    • Lot of pollution of different type may be created: 
      • Depending on the feedstock and technology, WtE processes may create air pollution, contaminated water or other residues. 
      • The aerial emissions and the heavy metal-laden toxic ash, which is dumped in unlined landfills, are bound to eventually pollute groundwater.
    • Worsening Air Quality:
      • There is an issue of poor ambient air quality especially during winters when the air is still and undispersed emissions cause widespread health hazards. 
    • Biosecurity Risk:
      • The transportation of unprocessed organic waste feedstock may pose a biosecurity risk, due to the potential spread of pests and plant disease. 
      • There is also a risk that such transportation and the WtE plant itself may also adversely affect amenity, through odour, noise, local transport congestion, dust and vermin, depending on the feedstock and treatment method used. 

    Way Ahead

    • There should be strict emission standards, controls and monitoring which may reduce the feasibility of the WtE plant. 
    • Municipalities and private players in this business need to ensure segregation at source and support end-to-end segregation. 
    • Also, the huge informal sector for recyclables in metro cities must be integrated.

     

    Bandhwari Plant

    • The MCG had signed an agreement with Ecogreen in 2017 to set up the plant. 
    • Now, a tender has been floated for bioremediation, mining and reclaiming of 10 acre at Bandhwari.
    • Waste-to-Energy Plant Land Area: 30.5 Acre
    • Location: Bandhwari, Gurgaon Faridabad Toll Road
    • Waste Collection: 1800 TPD
    • Energy Generation: 25 MW
    • Investments: INR 502 Crore
    • People Impact: 3,324,165 (Source: Census data, 2011)
    • Number of Vehicles: 572

    Reasons for Protest

    • Anti-public health: 
      • Such a decision will be an anti-public health act by the State government as the consequences of this plant on human health and on the Aravali ecosystem will be enormous and irreparable. 
    • Environmentally disastrous and unsustainable: 
      • The waste-to-energy plants are proven to be environmentally disastrous and unsustainable, not only in India but also in all major developed countries.
    • Violation of Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016: 
      • MCG has not utilised all the methods mentioned in Solid Waste Management Rule, 2016. 
      • The facts on the ground speak for themselves that even five years after SWM Rules 2016 came into force, the MCG continues to collect, transport, and dump only mixed waste. This is a gross violation of SWM Rules 2016.
    • Eco sensitive Area:
      • Site for the proposed plant is wildlife rich zone and is in the eco-sensitive Aravali belt which sustains life in the National Capital Region. 
      • The Aravalli forest between Bandhwari and Damdama is rich in wildlife and acts as an animal corridor between Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary in Delhi and Sariska in Rajasthan
    • Close proximity to Aravalis:
      • It said that the site was close to Mangar Bani, the NCR’s last remaining patch of original Aravali native forest.
    • False information given in Environment Impact Assessment: 
      • The Environment Clearance, plant got in November 2019 from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change for the Waste-to-Energy plant (15 MW capacity) was obtained by submitting “false” information in the environment impact assessment and needs to be revoked, the waste at Bandhwari landfill was unfit to be burnt for generating power and such plants were non-viable, flouted environmental law and caused pollution.
    • Mixed inner waste burning more dangerous:
      • The burning of mixed inert waste was only going to cause more environmental damage in the ecologically sensitive area of the Aravallis with over 219 species of birds in neighbouring Mangar Bani.
      • The Bandwari landfill is an ecological disaster. The WTE plant gets 2000 tonnes of mixed waste from Gurgaon and Faridabad every day, resulting in ground water leachate pollution
      • The ash that the plant will generate will add to the already polluted air and will also have heavy metals as mixed waste. This spells disaster for our precious Aravallis, its birds and wildlife
    • Waste transportation:
      • Waste ash is transported in open trucks through the city and after the National Green Tribunal order, it is now being dumped just anywhere, severely poisoning soil and underground water. 
      • It is also a major threat to the scrap collectors who are getting exposed themselves to poisonous ash as they segregate unburnt metal pieces from this new dump.

    Timeline

    (Image Courtesy: TOI )

     

    Sources: TH