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No space to treat toxic waste (May)

  With no space to build a hazardous waste treatment plant, Delhi is going through a massive crisis. Its efforts to build a treatment plant in Ghuman Hera, Kanjhawala and Bawana have failed because of a variety of reasons. Chief among these are the 'not in my backyard' stance of local communities and litigation over land. Delhi government had also requested neighbouring states earlier if they could provide land for treating the capital's hazardous waste but got no response. Now, National Green Tribunal, which heard the issue on Monday, has issued notices to the state governments of Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi to see how the crisis can be solved.


Delhi generates about 5,000 tonnes of hazardous waste annually which, in the absence of a treatment facility, is being sealed and stored by industries generating it. But this cannot continue for long. In fact, hazardous waste management rules say "operators may store the hazardous wastes for a period not exceeding 90 days and shall maintain a record of sale, transfer, storage, recycling and reprocessing of such wastes". It can be stored for longer only if the state pollution control board has authorized the unit to do so but that, too, has a time limit, say scientists. "NGT has taken note of the problem which is why they have issued notices to neighbouring states. DPCC, for a long time, has been looking for space to locate a treatment facility, which is supposed to be far away from habitation. But it has not managed to get land," Biraja Mahapatra, lawyer for Delhi Pollution Control Committee, said.


The situation is so precarious now that DPCC is relying on a helping hand from neighbouring states. As of now, the generators of hazardous waste are maintaining a record of annual waste generation that is being submitted to DPCC in the form of affidavits. Delhi desperately needs a treatment facility, says Piyush Mohapatra of Toxics Link. "Storing of hazardous waste is a problem because it has lifespan. If it's not disposed of within that period it will start contaminating. Delhi should immediately have a treatment facility, preferably within Delhi. Transporting it to other states will require permission," he said. "We have been desperately writing to Haryana government but it hasn't allowed us to send our hazardous waste to its facility.


The CM wrote to them earlier," DPCC member secretary Sandeep Mishra said. There are 27 hazardous waste treatment plants in the country. Most of them are located in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh because they have most of the industries that produce hazardous waste. But the Centre, too, is grappling with the crisis. Considering that it doesn't have land to even treat its municipal waste, Delhi is in a tight spot.


 Times of India, Delhi, Thursday 1st May 2014