Environmental clearance for Deonar plant: BMC agrees to upload report on website, denies another hearing

In an online public hearing with regard to the proposed 4 MW waste-to-energy plant at Deonar dumping ground, experts and citizens demanded that the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report should be uploaded on the BMC website along with a second hearing in the matter. Following Covid-19 restrictions in the city, an online public hearing was organised on Tuesday for obtaining environmental clearance by the BMC and Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB).

According to the 2006 EIA Notification, a draft impact assessment needs to be made public before the hearing. “Central guidelines clearly state that the full EIA report is to be shared publicly, in multiple languages, 30 days before the public hearing. This is a crucial step towards educating people about projected benefits and pitfalls of a certain project, which the BMC has sidestepped. How are stakeholders expected to make decisions based on incomplete information?” said Shweta Bhatt, director (conservation) at Conservation Action Trust.

Officials from the BMC have agreed to share the EIA report but declined the demand for a second public hearing. The civic body has given stakeholders four days to study the EIA report and send in suggestions and objections.

According to the executive summary of the EIA report uploaded by MPCB, the project will be executed at Rs 504 crore. An environment management plan has also been drawn up with a capital cost of Rs 8.15 crore and a recurring annual cost of Rs 96 lakh. “An additional air pollution control plan has also been put in place, with a budget of Rs 25 crore,” said Minesh Pimple, deputy chief engineer, solid waste management department.

The project will be spread over 12.19 hectares of the 120-hectare Deonar landfill. The plant will process 600 to 800 tonnes of garbage daily. Officials said around 33 per cent of the land or 3.19 ha will be developed as a green belt, whereas the plant will be built on 0.84 ha of the land parcel.

In 2013, the BMC invited an expression of interest for the scientific closure of the city’s largest dumping ground at Deonar, which has been in operation since 1927. In 2014, the BMC proposed setting up the waste-to-energy plant, but it was scrapped after several contractors protested over stringent conditions in the tender documents.

The BMC then amended the plan and refloated a tender in 2016, for which the Centre agreed to provide Rs 571 crore. Bidders did not come forward stating that they lacked expertise to set up a garbage processing plant with the capacity of 3,000 metric tonnes. Following this, in 2018, a new tender was floated reducing the capacity to 600 metric tonnes.

In response to citizens’ objections, Pimple said the BMC will put up a copy of the full draft EIA report under the solid waste management section of its website. “The executive summary covers the project in totality, but since some people are seeking more technical information, the full report is being uploaded on our website. Any inquiries based on that should be directed to us by Monday,” he added.

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