Sukhdev Vihar Welfare Residents Association v. Union of India
Jurisdiction: National Green Tribunal of India
Side A: Sukhdev Vihar Welfare Residents Association (Individual)
Side B: Union of India (Government)
Core objectives: Operating waste-to-energy plant in a densely populated area leads to GHG emissions.
SummaryIn 2013, the applicants, a welfare residents association, challenged the construction and operation of the waste-to-energy plant by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD). The plant to be established in a densely populated residential area would be dangerous to the lives of the residents. The incineration of unsegregated municipal solid waste emits large quantities of GHG, including carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides thereby contributing to global climate change. They are also a large source of indirect GHG, including carbon monoxide, non-methane volatile organic compounds and sulphur dioxide. The incinerator also emits more CO2 per MW/hour than any fossil fuel- based power source including coal/fuel power plants. The respondents, MCD, argued that the plant is a state- of-the-art facility and offers a clean, efficient and effective alternative to dumping of municipal solid waste in landfill sites. It is in the public interest that the plant operate.
On February 2, 2017, the NGT, however, allowed the operation of the plant. The need of the hour is to ensure processing of the municipal waste with least residue by recourse to developed and tested technologies. Examining public health and interest in conjunction with environmental protection, the balance tilts in favor of permitting the plant to continue its operation of processing the municipal solid waste from waste to energy. The applicability of precautionary principle through monitoring and adherence to stringent standards would ensure that there are no adverse impacts on public health and environment.
Importantly, the NGT observed that the plant in question has been developed as a Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) project. CDM projects, as registered with UNFCCC, are projects that adopt precision in technology that take care of environmental issues as per the international standards including stoppage of generation of GHG emissions. They are considered to be environment friendly, and are thus eligible for carbon credit.
According to the tribunal, the project proponent adopted anti-pollution measures, improved technology, introduced new mechanism for segregation and brought emissions not only within the prescribed limits but even to the more stringent standards imposed by the regulatory authorities. Based on the scientific evidence and inspection reports, the waste-to-energy plant was permitted to operate.