The residents of Jasola, Sukhdev Vihar and New friends Colony in south Delhi have been fighting a legal battle since 2009 demanding the closure or relocation of a waste-to-energy (WTE) plant in their area on accounts of pollution.
A WTE plant burns combustible waste of high calorific value to generate power, but it also produces two other by-products: ash and smoke/gas emissions. These emissions, called furans and dioxins, are considered deadly for human life and environment. Not only do they settle in the body and lead to reduced fertility, growth defects, immunosuppression and cancer but also considerably reduce the air quality.
In 2009, the Sukhdev Vihar Residents Welfare Association (RWA) filed a Writ Petition at the Delhi High Court against the proposed plant. The Hon'ble Delhi High Court in its order dated 12.08.2009 dismissed the writ petition based on the submission of the State that the necessary permissions have been obtained from the concerned authorities and the technicalities adopted were similar to projects in Vijayawada and Hyderabad.
Thereafter, an application in R.P. 448/2008 was filed before the Delhi High Court to review its earlier order dated 12.08.2009 in which it had dismissed the petition.
But it was still established and operationalised in 2011 by the Government of NCT Delhi based on the necessary certification(s) granted by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee. The plant functions as a Special Purpose Vehicle called Timarpur-Okhla Waste Management Company Private Limited. Jindal Urban Infrastructure Limited is responsible for the implementation of the project.
Thereafter, the case was transferred to the National Green Tribunal on January 23, 2013 as per the order of the High Court of Delhi, which recorded the reasons for the transfer as follows: First, the subject matter of the writ petition concerned matters covered in Schedule I of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 ('the Act'). Second, the transfer of a petition filed before the Act came into force, as was the case in this matter, was as per the directions of the Supreme Court in Bhopal Gas Peedith Mahila Udyog Sangathan v. Union of India.
The NGT in its order on February, 2017 allowed the plant to function subject to payment of a fine of INR 25 lakh for the violations as set out in Section 15 and 17 of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010.
The plant received a notice from the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) on April 16, 2019. The notice stated that the environmental clearance was given to the Okhla WTE in 2007 to use refuse-derived fuel (RDF) to the tune of 600-720 tonnes per day and generate close to 16 megawatts of electricity, but upon inspection by an MoEFCC-appointed sub-committee in December 2018, it was found that the RDF intake of the plant was around 1,600 tonnes per day, with the plant producing close to 19 megawatts of electricity. The sub-committee also found that the plant had constructed a third stack/chimney and was producing way more power than allowed.
On March 24 2019, about 3,000 residents of the affected neighbourhoods took out a rally, demanding the closure of the plant. More than a million people live in the residential colonies surrounding the plant, which continues to function despite protests.
Residents of Sukhdev Vihar have claimed that the incinerator not just triggers pollution but is located dangerously close to the residential areas, at a distance of just around 45 metres. We have been demanding that the plant either be shifted or shut down. In the case of an explosion, it would be a disaster. A hearing is also going on in the Supreme Court. But amidst all this, the authorities have proposed to expand the plant and have already added a chimney. Khan, president of Sukhdev Vihar SFS (Pocket A) RWA, told Land Conflict Watch.
The Central Pollution Control Board, meanwhile, has sought monthly monitoring of pollutants released from the plant. However, as late as February 2020, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate has now given its approval for the expansion of 16MW plant to 23MW. This, has meant that the Ministry has gone back on its own report where it had flagged violations by the plant, which amongst others include unauthorised increase in the capacity to 20MW.
Land Conflict Watch also spoke to Dr. Umesh Bahri, a former office bearer of the Sukhdev Vihar Resident Welfare Association, who said that "Far from getting any relief, in fact, the problem of environmental degradation in the area arising out of the plant operation has only worsened in the intervening years of litigation before various forums."
Demand/Contention of the Affected Community
Opposition against environmental degradation
Government Bodies Involved in the Conflict:
Government of NCT of Delhi, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Central Pollution Control Board, Delhi Pollution Control Committee, National Green Tribunal , South Delhi Municipal Corporation, New Delhi Municipal Council,
Corporate Parties Involved in the Conflict:
Jindal Urban Infrastructure Limited, Delhi Timarpur-Okhla Waste Management Company Private Limited.
Other Parties Involved in the Conflict:
Sukhdev Vihar Residents' Welfare Association, National Alliance of People's Movements, Toxic Watch Alliance, Volunteers of Change
Legislations Involved in the Conflict:
Legal Processes and Loopholes Enabling the Conflict:
Name(s) of Court(s)
Supreme Court of India, National Green Tribunal, High Court of Delhi
C.A. No. 013120 - / 2017 (SC), Original Application No. 22 (THC) of 2013 (NGT), W.P. (C) 9901/2009
Nature of Protest
Complaints, petitions, memorandums to officials
Major Human Rights Violations Related to the Conflict:
Reported Details of the Violation:
Date of Violation
Location of Violation
Has the Conflict Ended?
When did it end?
Why did the conflict end?