Waste on fire

The city fi­nally wakes up to waste man­age­ment, but bum­bles into incineration plants


Ben­galuru opts for incineration even though its il­le­gal and un­nec­es­sary

BEN­GALURU CITY'S long drawn battle with the mu­nic­i­pal cor­po­ra­tion for ef­fec­tive waste man­age­ment is fi­nally show­ing re­sults. Just six months af­ter the last ma­jor protests by Man­dur res­i­dents against a land­fill, Bruhat Ben­galuru Ma­hana­gara Pa­like (bbmp) has for­mu­lated new con­tracts to en­sure seg­re­gated garbage does not get mixed dur­ing trans­porta­tion and in­creased aware­ness re­gard­ing waste seg­re­ga­tion at source.The mu­nic­i­pal body has also got its 175 dry-waste cen­tres run­ning, each on an av­er­age man­ag­ing 400 kg of waste per day, and set up six of the 16 biomethani­sa­tion plants pro­cured for con­vert­ing wet waste into bio­gas.

As a re­sult, the res­i­dents of Maval­lipura vil­lage, which had brought bbmp to its knees in 2012 when it closed its land­fill, have ac­cepted the re­open­ing of the land­fill for com­post­ing wet waste.

With ev­ery­thing go­ing its way, bbmp now plans to set up six waste-incineration plants with a com­bined ca­pac­ity to process 1,600 tonnes of waste. But bbmp has missed two fun­da­men­tal points—the city does not need the plants and they are not al­lowed by law. The cor­po­ra­tion has al­ready awarded 4 hectares at Gid­den­halli vil­lage to Es­sel Group to set up a unit for pro­cess­ing 600 tonnes of mixed waste to pro­duce 8 MW of elec­tric­ity daily.The con­tract for a sec­ond plant, be­ing set up as a joint ven­ture by Swiss multi­na­tional Satarem En­ter­prises Pri­vate Limited and lo­cal com­pany Shivram As­so­ciates,will process 1,000 tonnes of garbage and pro­duce 14.5 MW of power.

Il­le­gal and ex­pen­sive

The projects vi­o­late a plethora of legal pro­vi­sions and court or­ders in the area of mu­nic­i­pal solid waste man­age­ment. Mu­nic­i­pal Solid Waste (msw) Rules,no­ti­fied in 2000,clearly state that waste will be

pro­cessed through com­post­ing and re­cy­cling, and incineration will be al­lowed only af­ter the Cen­tral Pol­lu­tion Con­trol Board (cpcb) has laid down stan­dards. The 2004 Dhaka Rec­om­men­da­tions on solid waste man­age­ment in saarc coun­tries, led by In­dia, also stated incineration should not be con­sid­ered an op­tion.

In 2013-14,the Kar­nataka High Court, hear­ing a public in­ter­est pe­ti­tion on the city’s com­pli­ance with msw rules, asked bbmp solid waste man­age­ment ex­pert com­mit­tee’s (swmec) opin­ion on incineration tech­nolo­gies and later asked it to pre­pare a plan for the city’ waste man­age­ment.In both doc­u­ments, swmec has ex­plic­itly re­jected incineration as a strat­egy, fol­low­ing which bbmp was asked by court to com­ply with the or­ders.The de­ci­sion to al­low the use of mixed waste at the incineration plants also goes against a May 2014 re­port by the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion’s Task Force on Waste to En­ergy. The re­port states that only non­biodegrad­able waste can be incinerated.

bbmp in­sid­ers say state en­ergy min­is­ter D K Shivku­mar is back­ing Satarem, and the move is be­ing jus­ti­fied on the ground that the plan was con­ceived in 2011,much be­fore the 2014 high court or­der.

Mean­while, bbmp has agreed to pay an in­or­di­nately high tip­ping fee of ` 279 per tonne of garbage to Es­sel, while Satarem is to be paid ` 253. bbmp had ear­lier turned down an of­fer for a fee of ` 253 by Es­sel. This fee is also higher than what other garbage pro­ces­sors are be­ing paid, the high­est be­ing

` 171 to msgp, which is run­ning a com­post­ing and ma­te­rial ex­trac­tion plant at the Dod­a­bal­la­pura dump.

bbmp of­fi­cials are not will­ing to ex­plain the ra­tio­nale be­hind this high tip­ping fee. When Down To Earth con­tacted Joint Com­mis­sioner (health and solid waste man­age­ment) Yathish Ku­mar,he evaded the is­sue, while M R Venkatesh, chief en­gi­neer, solid waste man­age­ment, said the fee was high be­cause the con­tracts were new.

Both projects are fac­ing stiff public op­po­si­tion. On Novem­ber 29, 2014, Gorur vil­lage in Ram­na­gara dis­trict, the site for the Satarem project, erupted in protest when rev­enue depart­ment of­fi­cials, backed by thr po­lice, came to sur­vey the land. Venkatesh told Down To Earth that Es­sel’s plant is fac­ing sim­i­lar op­po­si­tion.

Incineration not needed

Ben­galuru does not need this tech­nol­ogy. If seg­re­ga­tion and re­cy­cling is im­ple­mented ef­fec­tively, com­post­ing and re­cy­cling of the en­tire vol­ume of garbage will be pos­si­ble.At present, the city has a pro­cess­ing ca­pac­ity of about 2,000 tonnes, which meets close to half of its re­quire­ments, es­ti­mates swmec mem­ber N S Ra­makanth. Ex­perts say the ca­pac­ity can be in­creased. “The ca­pac­ity of the Maval­lipura and Man­dur dumps can be en­hanced if bbmp cleans them up and cre­ates some space for pro­cess­ing,” says swmec mem­ber H C Sharatchan­dra.The high court had or­dered bbmp to clean up the Maval­lipura dump way back in 2012,but till date even the process of cov­er­ing up the garbage with soil has not been com­pleted.

Once the new garbage col­lec­tion con­tracts are is­sued, the vol­ume of non­biodegrad­able waste avail­able for incineration will also re­duce. “The dis­posal of non-biodegrad­able waste will be left to the com­mu­ni­ties who will man­age it through the city’s 175 dry-waste col­lec­tion cen­tres. This will re­duce the vol­ume of dry and mixed waste,” Ra­makanth says, adding that the terms for the new con­tracts are fi­nal, and new ten­ders will be in­vited within 15 days. In such a sce­nario, the city will not have enough dry waste for the pro­posed incineration plants.

Viability and safety

Waste-to-en­ergy projects are also not con­sid­ered vi­able for In­dia be­cause the garbage, com­pris­ing large amounts of wet waste, is of low calorific value. Ben­galuru, in fact, has such a case un­der its nose. Srini­vas Gay­athri Re­source Re­cov­ery Limited, which bagged a con­tract to process 900 tonnes of waste at the Man­dur land­fill, did not set up its plant prop­erly. In­stead it ap­pro­pri­ated huge amounts of pro­cess­ing charges and raised a

` 90-crore loan by mort­gag­ing the gov­ern­ment land al­lot­ted to it be­fore its con­tract was fi­nally can­celled last year.

Incineration tech­nolo­gies have a high po­ten­tial for pol­lu­tion. Burning chlo­ri­nated plas­tics such as pvc re­leases toxic diox­ins and flurons into the at­mos­phere. Sharatchan­dra says mon­i­tor­ing th­ese tox­ins is ex­pen­sive,a nd no pol­lu­tion con­trol board in the coun­try is equipped to do it. “Un­less cpcb sets stan­dards, and all state pol­lu­tion con­trol boards are ready, noth­ing can jus­tify go­ing ahead with incineration plants.”

Be­sides, there are fears over the de­sign of the pro­posed incineration plants. A Satarem of­fi­cial says that its tech­nol­ogy in­volves tem­per­a­tures rang­ing from 2500C to 1,1000C, which is not enough. “The tem­per­a­ture at which garbage is incinerated should be at least 1,6000C to en­sure en­vi­ron­ment safety,” says Sharatchan­dra, adding that swmec has not re­ceived the plant de­signs. Ex­perts be­lieve that in­stead of ob­sess­ing over in­cin­er­a­tors, bbmp should in­vest in com­post­ing.

PHO­TO­GRAPHS: APARNA PALLAVI / CSE Res­i­dents have agreed to the re­sump­tion of re­cy­cling work at the Maval­lipura land­fill, which was closed down in 2012 af­ter protests

Work­ers feed seg­re­gated garbage into a biomethani­sa­tion plant at Ben­galuru's K R Pu­ram veg­etable mar­ket. The mu­nic­i­pal cor­po­ra­tion has re­cently set up six such plants in the city

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