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Waste-to-Energy Plant Proposed in Protected Aravallis: Why Citizens Protested

Residents of Gurugram, Faridabad, and Delhi have raised objections to the proposed waste to energy plant.

Published
My Report
4 min read

Braving the pouring rain and foul smell from the mountain of garbage in the middle of the Aravalli forest in India’s National Capital Region, nearly 200 residents of Gurugram, Faridabad, Delhi, and the villages of Bandhwari, Mangar, Gwal Pahari gathered under a dripping tent set up on one of NCR's biggest landfills this week.

Why you may ask?

To make their voices heard at the public hearing organised on the morning of 31 August by the Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB) for the expansion of a proposed Waste to Energy (WTE) plant from 15 MW to a whopping 25 MW, in an area that acts as NCR’s green lungs and is a key water recharge zone.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Notice for WTE plant.</p></div>

Notice for WTE plant.

(Photo Courtesy: Aravalli Bachao Citizens Movement)

  • 01/03

    Public hearing ongoing.

    (Photo Courtesy: Aravalli Bachao Citizens Movement)

    <div class="paragraphs"><p>Public hearing ongoing.</p></div>
  • 02/03

    Public hearing on a rainy day near the landfill.

    (Photo Courtesy: Aravalli Bachao Citizens Movement)

    <div class="paragraphs"><p>Public hearing on a rainy day near the landfill.</p></div>
  • 03/03

    Public hearing ongoing.

    (Photo Courtesy: Aravalli Bachao Citizens Movement)

    <div class="paragraphs"><p>Public hearing ongoing.</p></div>

After obtaining Environmental Clearance based on the submission of a faulty Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Report, the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG) is all set to build a 15 MW waste-to-energy plant in the ecologically sensitive forest land and now wants to expand its capacity to 25 MW.

At the public hearing, objection letters were submitted by many citizens and groups, such as Citizens for Clean Air and NCR Waste Matters. Many Solid Waste Management Experts like Dr Shyamala Mani, Shibu Nair from Kerala and pan India environment groups such as Vanashakti from Mumbai, Toxics Watch, SWMRT (Solid Waste Management Round Table) from Bengaluru sent their objection emails as well. This link gives detailed reasons why the Aravalli Bachao Citizens Group is fiercely objecting to the upcoming WTE plant in the Aravallis.

Aravalli Bachao objection to WTE, 31 Aug 2021.pdf
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Not only will this plant cause massive air, water, and land pollution, it will also kill the forest that is already dying a slow death at the hands of the land and mining mafia.

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The stretch where the WTE plant is being proposed is very rich in rare native mammal species such as the leopard, honey badger, ruddy mongoose, etc. The nearby sacred grove of Mangar Bani hosts 219 species of birds, including those that have been showing a “national level decline”. The grove also hosts the best-preserved vegetation.

Conservation of Mangar Bani, along with the surrounding Aravalli forests, is critical for maintaining NCR’s native floral and faunal biodiversity. A polluting waste-to-energy plant in this area will be a huge threat.

  • 01/01

    Landfire fire in July and consequent protest.

    (Photo Courtesy: Aravalli Bachao Citizens Movement)

    <div class="paragraphs"><p>Landfire fire in July and consequent protest.</p></div>

During the public meeting, villagers and citizens spoke about the negative health impacts of the existing Bandhwari landfill as well as the proposed waste-to-energy plant.

Harsana, an environmental crusader from Mangar village, explained why a polluting WTE plant will only increase health woes of villagers.

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“I want to ask the authorities, if they really want this to be a 'public hearing' in the true sense, then why are they not holding it in villages where the women folk can also attend? Why is there no concern amongst the authorities for the health of the villagers who are dying of cancer because the underground water is contaminated by the toxic leachate that flows out of the Bandhwari landfill, where 2,000 tons of mixed waste from Gurugram and Faridabad cities is dumped everyday?"
Sunil Harsana, Environment Crusader

Villagers shared their problems and demanded answers and action from the authorities. Cancer cases and cattle deaths being caused by contaminated water, lung diseases caused by polluted air from the landfill and an army of mosquitoes and flies at the site are some of the few pertinent issues.

  • 01/02

    Cancer cases have increase in the villages.

    (Photo Courtesy: Aravalli Bachao Citizens Movement)

    <div class="paragraphs"><p>Cancer cases have increase in the villages.</p></div>
  • 02/02

    Water in the village is contaminated.

    (Photo Courtesy: Aravalli Bachao Citizens Movement)

    <div class="paragraphs"><p>Water in the village is contaminated.</p></div>
"What are your plans for the toxic ash that will be generated from burning the mixed waste? Have you identified a place where this ash will be dumped? And what about the pollution that the ash will cause? How will you tackle that?"
Vaishali Rana, Environmental Activist

The bottom ash coming out of the proposed WTE plant in Bandhwari will completely destroy the surface water bodies in the Aravalli forest, pollute the air and contaminate the underground water aquifers feeding the NCR cities, threatening the life of millions of residents.

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Why are WTE Plants Problematic?

A report by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) submitted to the National Green Tribunal and the Supreme Court in September 2020 showed that waste to energy plants located in the Okhla, Bawana and Ghazipur areas of Delhi are releasing a toxic mix of chemicals, such as Dioxins, Furans, PM 2.5 and highly polluting bottom ash into the environment. Inhaling PM 2.5 particles can lead to cardio-vascular diseases, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and respiratory disorders.

"Instead of emphasising on enforcement of Solid Waste Management (SWM) Rules 2016, decentralised composting and dry-waste collection, Rs 700 crore of tax payers money is being given away to a Chinese company to build a pollution causing facility. I want to know, what happened to the Prime Minister's ‘Make In India’ slogan?"
Saurav Bardhan, Waste Management Expert

Neelam Ahluwalia from the Aravalli Bachao Citizens Movement asked everyone present if they were favour of the plant and its expansion. The entire public said "NO".

Neelam demanded a roundtable discussion between the authorities, the citizens and the waste experts to discuss a sustainable waste management plan for Gurugram and Faridabad.

Mr Kuldeep Singh, the HSPCB Regional Officer, agreed and said that the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram will do the needful.

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Aravalli Bachao Citizens' Movement will continue the fight to save the Aravallis from the toxic Bandhwari landfill and the proposed waste to energy plant. We have been doing many nationwide tweet-storms, demanding removal of the landfill from the Aravallis, cancellation of the plan to build the WTE plant in the forest, and implementation of SWM rules in Gurugram & Faridabad. Many on-ground protests have also been done along with school children at the landfill in 2020 and 2021.

In July 2021, Aravalli Bachao group members met with the Chief Minister of Haryana ML Khattar at a public grievance redressal meeting, and presented a petition for removal of the landfill while also discussing sustainable solutions to the problem. A petition was also created along the same lines.

(The authors are members of Aravalli Bachao citizens' group. They can be reached via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Edited By :Aastha Gulati
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