On 10th December 2021, 26 citizens in Gurgaon, the millennium city of India were picked up by the police, huddled into a bus and taken away for silently protesting to save the Aravallis, their barrier against dust storms coming from the Thar desert, a critical water recharge zone and wildlife habitat.
“Why were we treated like criminals? All we were doing was standing quietly to say ‘NO’ to a venom-spewing waste burning plant in the Aravallis which are the only green lungs of the highly polluted cities of India’s National Capital Region. We want to ask our elected leaders one question: since when did demanding for our children’s right to breathe clean air become a crime”, said Jyoti Raghavan, a mother of 2 teenaged girls who was detained by the police.
Around 2:15 pm on 10th December 2021, 50 citizens from different walks of life had gathered outside Vyapar Sadan building in Sector 14, Gurgaon on behalf of 33800+ citizens who have signed on a change.org petition demanding sustainable waste management for Gurgaon & Faridabad and said a resounding NO to the Haryana government’s plan to construct a waste incineration plant in the Aravallis. They were standing silently with posters expressing what they wanted to convey to the Chief Minister of Haryana, Mr Manohar Lal Khattar who was coming at this location to lay the foundation stone of the incineration plant at Bandhwari landfill. The citizens including students wanted to urge the CM not to steal their future by putting up this plant when ‘waste to energy’ as a model has failed everywhere in India.
“The toxic emissions and fly ash generated from a waste burning plant in the Aravallis will only increase air, water and soil pollution creating more health problems for the 30000+ people living in the vicinity and increase pollution levels of the entire National Capital Region. Why is the Haryana government hell bent on implementing this regressive model when in both the public hearings held, citizens of Gurgaon, Faridabad and villages around Bandhwari landfill have said a resounding ‘NO’ to setting up a waste incineration plant here,” said Neelam Ahluwalia, a member of the Aravalli Bachao Citizens Movement.
DETENTION OF PROTESTING CITIZENS FOR 3 HOURS BY THE POLICE
Around 2:30 pm, the large group of policemen who had been asking the silently protesting citizens to disperse, swung into action, tearing up all their posters, manhandling the citizens and shoving them into a police bus that pulled up next to the group.
“Next 40 anxiety-filled minutes were spent as we wondered about our fates before the bus carrying us stopped at Palam Vihar women’s police station and we were told that we are being detained “to maintain law & order in the city”. We were released after 3 long hours that felt like eternity. Why were we held back against our will: only for asking for our right to live as we battle to survive in one of the most polluted regions in the world. But these scare tactics have only strengthened our resolve to continue the fight for our beloved Aravallis. If we needed a sign that we are on the right track, this was it. Jai Aravallis!” said Anu PD from the Aravalli Bachao Citizens Group.
WASTE TO ENERGY IS A FAILED MODEL IN INDIA
Out of 11 Waste to Energy (WTE) plants set up in India, most have closed down. The few that are operating are flouting all environment norms, emitting toxic gases beyond pollution norms of the Central Pollution Control Board and causing major health problems for citizens living in the vicinity of these plants like is the case in Okhla in Delhi. There are already 3 polluting WTE plants in Delhi. A 4th one in the Aravallis will add to the toxic air in India’s National Capital Region already reeling under the impacts of severe air pollution. “Why is the Indian government wanting to set up 100+ waste incineration plants across the country when the composition of Indian waste does not support this technology,” said Roma J. Vinayak, an eco champion of the city.
This short video presents the views of Swati Sambyal, a Waste Expert from Delhi who explains the 5 reasons why waste to energy as a model has failed in India and what should be done with the 10 to 15% of the non-recyclable, non-compostable waste of a city.
CITIZENS DEMANDS FOR SUSTAINABLE WASTE MANAGEMENT
1) Cancel plan for polluting waste to energy plant in the Aravallis.
2) Bring the SWM by laws in place for Gurgaon. By laws give a direction for both the citizens and the administration and help in effective waste handling in a city.
3) Implement sustainable decentralised waste management to recover resources from waste through wet waste composting, bio gas and recycling of dry waste. This can be done at a fraction of the cost of the proposed waste to energy plant.
4) Implement waste reduction programs to reduce waste generation in both the cities.
5) Include waste entrepreneurs and waste workers in managing waste.
6) Clear Bandhwari landfill through bio remediation and reclaim the Aravalli forest.
Joint statement from empanelled vendors for composting in Gurgaon is that decentralised waste management is preferred under SWM 2016 rules. In Gurgaon, more than 140 Bulk Waste Generators are managing kitchen waste without any dependence on the municipal infrastructure, proving it to be a successful model implemented by medium and small scale waste entrepreneurs. Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon should leverage and support such enterprises to increase their reach, and also help them to explore opportunities in other streams of waste like dry waste etc. This will help in job creation and will also take away the load from central municipal waste management infrastructure.
All stakeholders in all our cities must be given an opportunity to build a sustainable waste management ecosystem that results in NO LANDFILL and WASTE to CLEAN ENERGY like Bio CNG and compost. This is need of the hour.