What Happened to Srinagar’s Waste to Energy Project? 

Achan Landfill Site

NATIONAL Green Tribunal (NGT) in the past had made an observation in an open court that if Srinagar city is not made free from trash and solid waste all the trash be sent to Civil Secretariat, Srinagar.

However, even now a huge population in areas like Eidgah, Wanganpora, Noorbagh , Zoonimar , Anchar and Soura are suffering as foul smell from landfill site continues to spread out with the air making their lives miserable.

On October 23rd 2017, Jammu & Kashmir cabinet gave a nod for setting up of a waste to energy plant in Srinagar. The plant which was to be constructed under the public private partnership (PPP) at Achan Saidapora landfill site is supposed to generate 5 megawatt of electricity on a daily basis from 5 metric tons of solid waste. The company which was allotted the project had to invest Rs 120 crores and would thus get the ownership rights of this plant for a period of 25 years. The whole project was based on the build-own-operate and transfer model (BOOT).

About 4 years back, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) passed an order directing the Chief Secretary of Jammu & Kashmir to ensure compliance to the cabinet order dated October 23rd 2017, on setting up of the waste to energy plant. The NGT which had been hearing the petition on Achan landfill site from 2013 onwards in the matter of Dr Irfan Ahmad and others v/s Nawang Rigzin Jora the then J&K Housing and Urban Development Minister in its order had said,

“We make it clear that we will not grant any further time on any ground whatsoever as it merely an administrative compliance now”

It is now almost 4 years, yet the order of the NGT and J&K cabinet has not been implemented.

It is the Housing and Urban Development Department (HUDD) which is solely responsible for not adhering to the cabinet order of 23rd October 2017. The department is also responsible for not respecting  NGT’s order followed by a Govt order.

The NGT came to the conclusion of directing J&K Government to set up waste to energy plant after several rounds of deliberations and discussions. NGT had constituted some expert committees for providing a solution to Srinagar’s solid waste problem. If the government, like several waste management experts, had disagreements with the waste to energy projects, why did the J&K cabinet give a nod to the NGT’s direction?

Srinagar city is sitting on a literal volcano of waste. The existing landfill site at Achan is like a man made volcano which can explode any time as methane gas is getting accumulated under huge garbage cells. This landfill has been choked completely and SMC continues to dump 400 to 450 metric tons of municipal solid waste at the site on a regular basis. This is not only unscientific but also very dangerous.

The main challenge for managing solid waste in Srinagar or even Kashmir valley is the dearth of landfill sites. Srinagar city is surrounded by water-bodies and wetlands. There are not even 100 kanals of wasteland available where a new landfill site could be set up. We are not like Bhopal or Indore city where there is huge land availability .The municipal corporations in these cities indeed manage the waste scientifically by following MSW Rules 2016 but these cities have a great benefit of having huge landfill sites as well.

This is not the case with Kashmir valley, especially Srinagar city. The shrinking land area and lack of enough waste land in Kashmir is a big challenge and authorities are supposed to fully focus on managing and treating the waste on a daily basis instead of collecting and creating mountains of trash at the Achan landfill site and other towns like Magam , Sopore , Baramulla , Bandipora , Budgam , Kulgam etc. In Poonch , Rajouri , Udhampur and many other cities the situation with regard to managing municipal solid waste is equally terrible.

Back in 2017, the former Housing and Urban Development Minister Dr Nirmal Singh had acknowledged and raised the issue in the assembly as DC srinagar had failed to identify a new landfill site for Srinagar.

Other Violators 

Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) has always been blamed for failing to manage the municipal solid waste in Srinagar. Media, civil society, and the public at large have been criticizing them for unscientific waste disposal. But there are many other Government agencies who are also to be blamed.

In April this year, the Irrigation & Flood Control department undertook de-silting of an irrigation canal that flows from Marwel in Pampore to Bagh-e-Mehtab in Srinagar outskirts. The canal flows via Gopalpora, Kralpora and Mochwa localities of Srinagar outskirts. These areas are part of district Budgam but are located merely 8 to 9 kms from Srinagar city, and thus have become urbanized. The irrigation canal flowing through this area has, therefore, turned into a drain with a lot of solid and liquid waste in it along with a large amount of plastic waste as well.

For the last many years, local residents have been urging the Irrigation Department to clean up the canal but this was always being delayed. The local residents gave several memorandums to the Government. Experts had been advising that a nearby irrigation canal needs to be cleared of all the muck, silt and plastic waste. When the desilting work was taken up in Gopalpora to Mochwa via Kralpora around March -April this year, the Irrigation Department contractors dumped all the plastic waste and silt excavated from the canal on the Srinagar–Chadoora road.

The engineers didn’t even reprimand the contractor for the unscientific work he was doing. It was only after locals protested and newspapers reported the matter that the Chief Engineer Irrigation Kashmir personally visited the area.

The unscientific waste is also being dumped by Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LWDA) at Shalimar foreshore road. The waste is in fact biodegradable (weeds and semisolid waste) but the authority has not been able to process this organic waste into compost for the last many decades by outsourcing the work to some private agency . The newly appointed Vice Chairperson of the authority must take serious note of this.

The Irrigation and Flood control department should also follow Municipal Solid Waste Rules (MSW Rules 2016) while cleaning its canals in J&K.

Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer

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Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is an Acumen Fellow and Chairman Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement. Feedback [email protected]

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