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Delhi Pollution Control Committee hands showcause notice to Okhla plant

NEW DELHI: Delhi Pollution Control Committee has issued a show cause notice to the Okhla waste-to-energy plant for violating the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act. It has given plant operators 15 days time to revert on why air pollution levels were beyond the standard around the plant. 

Residents of Sukhdev Vihar and other areas near the plant have been protesting against the waste-to-energy technology since 2010. They have also filed a case against the Okhla waste-to-energy plant in the National Green Tribunal which will be heard next on January 28. 

Critics are wary of the technology because incinerating all kinds of waste together—including plastics and metals—is leading to release of toxic emissions like dioxins and furans risking the health of residents around the plant. But plant operators so far have been claiming that "the waste-to-energy plant facilities burning waste in specially designed boilers to ensure complete combustion. The facilities use pollution control equipment to scrub emissions, preventing them from releasing into our environment". 

After several inspections and warnings, DPCC and Central Pollution Control Board scientists who inspected the site on Friday found several deficiencies in it. They also found that air quality around the plant hadn't improved. "We have issued a show-cause notice to them on Friday and sent a copy to all agencies including New Delhi Municipal Council and South Corporation. The plant is also shut now because their boiler isn't working," Sandeep Mishra, DPCC member secretary, told TOI. 

Residents and members of Toxic Watch Alliance, an environmental NGO, also submitted a complaint to CM Arvind Kejriwal at Janata Durbar on Sunday informing him about the "hazardous" conditions due to emissions from the waste-to-energy plant. "DPCC has taken a major step by issuing the plant a show cause notice. After a long time they have take note of the genuine health concerns and environmental degradation that the plant is causing. We welcome this move. We have also received an acknowledgement of our complaint from the CM's office on Sunday," said Ranjit Devaraj, a resident of Sukhdev Vihar. 

Officials of Timarpur Okhla Waste Management Company said that they had received the DPCC notice and preparing to file a detailed and "scientific" report countering the complaints. "The truth is that pollution levels are always within limits around this plant. During winter, even if you blow out a little air it appears like smoke which makes residents think its pollution. The smoke from the stacks is not toxic. It just looks dense, that's all," said a senior official from the plant. He also claimed that waste was being segregated before being incinerated. "We have special machinery to segregate waste," he said, countering claims that the plant has been running with out a waste segregator all these years. 

The Times of India (13-01-2014)