The Environment Ministry, while noting that there were operational issues including the overloading of waste against its designed capacity, sought an explanation from Timarpur Okhla Waste Management Company Pvt Ltd, which operates the Okhla waste-to-energy plant in south-east Delhi, as to why the environmental clearance (EC) granted to it in 2007 should not be kept in ‘abeyance’. The April 16, 2019 notice from the Environment Ministry, has asked the company to respond within 15 days. The notice was served after several violations were observed by a team inspecting the Okhla plant, on December 15, 2018. The team was constituted by the Ministry in 2018.
“The ministry has taken cognisance that the increase in waste input to the incinerators, which will add to the pollution load, rise in installed power generation, construction of new chimney without the ministry’s permission, failure to set up a bio-methanation plant at Okhla and RDF plant at Timarpur, are (all) non-compliance to the terms and conditions of the Environmental Clearance granted dated 21.03.2007. Therefore, in exercise of the powers conferred under Section 5 of the Environment Protection Act, 1986, you are hereby, directed to show-cause, why the EC should not be kept in abeyance,” the notice read.
The Ministry notice quotes the report, submitted by the team, as saying, ‘the plant is surrounded by habitations at close distance in all directions’. It noted that the steam produced by the boiler ‘indicated overloading of municipal solid waste to the incinerators’. “A bio-methanation plant at Okhla, as proposed, has still not been set up. A waste processing unit to generate reduced derived fuel (RDF) fluff at Timarpur is still not installed. As opposed to the sanctioned single stack/chimney of 60 metres height, two stacks of 50 metres height are installed, for dispersion of flue gases. Even gates of waste storage pits are not closed, leading to leakage of odour in the area,” the notice read.
The Okhla waste-to-energy plant comes under the jurisdiction of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) and the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC). The plant has been at the centre of protests by locals for long, due to alleged emission rule violations and causing pollution in the area. Residents of Sukhdev Vihar in south-east Delhi, have been fighting a legal battle against the Okhla plant, alleging that the plant was trying to expand without any concern about pollution norms.