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Pune Municipal Corporation’s waste-to-green energy project in Hadapsar is limping

According to reports, the Pune Municipal Corporation’s (PMC) waste-to-green energy project from processing garbage in Hadapsar has run into trouble.

Mumbai-based Rochem Separations Systems (India) Pvt Ltd, which was operating the plant on a build-operate-transfer basis to process 700-tonne dry waste and generate 10 MW electricity every day, has failed to run to its full capacity. It has led to the piling up of garbage and rejected material being dumped in the open in the plant’s backyard, close to residential areas.

Activists have demanded that the project be scrutinised by an experts’ committee. They claimed that the company had not only violated environmental norms, but also flouted clauses of the agreement with the civic body that can attract a huge penalty.

President of Pune-based Nagrik Chetana Manch Maj Gen (retd) SCN Jatar claimed that the project is a complete failure. The PMC gave the contract for generating electricity from 700 tonne per day to Rochem in 2010.

“The plant uses gasification/pyrolysis technology to generate electricity from waste. Reports in the foreign press regarding gasification technology raise doubts because the plant in Ramtekdi is not functioning at full capacity even after the company got the authorisation from the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) in May 2011. It is supposed to process 700 metric tonne waste every day, but in reality it processes up to 200 metric tonne,” Jatar said.

He also doubted the plant’s electricity generation. “The civic body says the plant does not generate any electricity. But MPCB officials had mentioned in their visit report (March 15, 2013) that generation of 1.5 MW electricity was used to run the plant. This is confusing. As per the documents sought under the Right to Information Act, 2005 the company fitted gas engines of 2.6 MW capacity in September 2012. But when I visited the plant, the engines were not working,” Jatar said.

Ruchir Sanghavi, head of the Rochem plant in Pune, said, “The plant in Hadapsar produces 0.78 MW to 1 MW of power per day by processing around 250 metric tonne waste. Since the Maharashtra Energy Development Agency has not approved connection of the power plant to the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited grid, we cannot process more waste because we cannot store electricity. There is documentation involved and hence the delay.”

Suresh Jagtap, joint commissioner who is in charge of municipal solid waste department, said, “We cannot judge the success of the plant halfway through. The project is incomplete and has not generated any electricity. As of now, no grid connectivity has been permitted to distribute the electricity. The plan was stalled since the company terminated its contract with Tata Power Limited since it was demanding supply of 10 MW, while the Rochem plant is not able to generate the required electricity. Now, Rochem is going to sign an agreement with Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited.”

When contacted, an official from Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) said, “The authorisation was given to Rochem for setting up the plant in Hadapsar on May 23, 2011. It was valid up to April 30, 2012. They have applied for renewal of authorisation on May 9, 2012. It is in process.”

The project has been mired in controversies from the beginning, Jatar said. “As per the check list on the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board website, the distance of human habitation from the plant site is to be 500 m under the Air and Water Acts, but the site is right next to two huge residential complexes. Additionally, garbage and rejects are being dumped in the open. These are major health hazards,” Jatar said.

Representatives of Hill Side residential complex said, “The distance between the Rochem garbage processing plant and our building is not more than 100 m. This is a grave violation of environment norms. Around 80% of our flats are booked. People who are going to stay hope that the project will either be shifted or get properly enclosed. During last year’s monsoon, the leachate (liquid toxic waste that seeps through wet garbage) from the garbage was all over the area after the compound wall of the plant collapsed.”

Multi-national companies are shunning Ramtekdi industrial zone because of the stink and unhealthy surroundings while existing industries are thinking of relocating, Jatar said.

Vikas Jagtap, vice-chairman of Ramtekdi Industrial Association, which has 105 companies as members said, “We have lost one multi-national project due to the garbage processing plant as foreign investors withdrew after visiting the site. We have filed a case in Bombay high court as the garbage processing plants located here stock and openly dump garbage in the open which causes a stink affecting those living and working nearby. Very little garbage is processed.”

Besides, he said, the civic body allowed Rochem to start construction without obtaining consent from the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board under section 21 of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and section 25 of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act), 1974 to erect, construct, test and commission the plant. “This is again a major illegality,” Jatar said.”Hence, the project is deemed to be illegal because it is without ‘consent to establish, operate, commission …” under the two acts,” Jatar added.

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