Delhi’s overflowing landfill gets a Waste to Energy plant by Il&FS


High-rise dumpMunicipal Last January, the Indian Air Force identified an unusual risk to their Republic Day flypast: birds. Every day thousands of birds fill the east Delhi skyscape, circling over what looks like a hill just east of the Yamuna. At night several fires light up the slope and send smoke streaming into the sky. This hill is the Ghazipur landfill.

Categorised as an Uncontrolled Solid Waste Disposal Facility, the Ghazipur landfill receives one third of Delhi’s garbage. Operating since 1984, it is the oldest functional landfill in the city, estimated to contain at least 12 million tonnes of waste, including sewage and construction rubble from east Delhi.

Methane from the garbage sets off fires, while toxic leachates flow into the groundwater

The landfill crossed its limit 15 years ago, but remains in use for lack of another site. Methane from the decomposing waste sets off spontaneous fires on the mound, while toxic leachates flow into the Yamuna and seep into the groundwater. Further, given that Ghazipur lies in a highly vulnerable seismic zone, the potential disasters from an earthquake here leave little to the imagination. For the 100,000 people who live within a kilometre of this dumpsite, the dangers are real, constant, and inescapable

Moving mountains In 2010, IL&FS Environment embarked on the mighty task of stemming this environmental and health disaster. IL&FS developed the Waste to Energy (WtE) plant project on a PPP framework for the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC), as a scientific solution to address the current dumping of waste at Ghazipur.

India’s first Euro-compliant WtE plant, it will mitigate 8.2 million tons of greenhouse gases

Built with the capability to process 2000 tonnes per day (TPD), the plant now generates green power by processing 1300 tonnes of municipal solid waste each day. An elaborate pre-processing facility prepares the waste to ensure a high calorific value for the Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) produced, which then feeds into the state-of-the-art boiler ensuring efficient combustion. The RDF produced at the plant has been tested to have a calorific value of over 3000 Kcal/kg.

This is India’s first WtE plant compliant to Euro norms for emissions. It uses treated sewage water in its operations thus fully complying with the 4R (Reduce, Reuse, Recover, Recycle) principle of waste management. To implement highest levels of transparency, along with a visitors gallery, IL&FS has installed a Continuous Emission Monitoring System (CEMS) in the plant, which enables key emission parameters to be viewed online in real time. The facility has generated over 230 lakh kWh of clean electricity from more than 2.5 lakh tonnes of garbage, and has garnered international media attention.

Meanwhile on the groundThe area around the dumpsite houses 95% of Delhi’s fish and flower trades, and nearly 80% of the meat and poultry trades, besides dyeing units and a paper market. Adding hundreds of tonnes of waste to the landfill every day, these businesses also generate a fragile livelihood for thousands.

A mere 200 metres from the dumpsite is the Ghazipur slum — home to 1500 rag-pickers: men, women and children who scour the waste in search of a daily wage of Rs 150 or 200. While IL&FS Environment was designing the WtE project, IL&FS’s Nalanda Foundation, then called the Social Inclusion Group (SIG), directed its attention to this waste picker community, which forms the very bottom of the economic and social pyramid in Ghazipur. They are the destitute whose basic sustenance depends upon the scraps of fresh waste they can scavenge before the digger trucks arrive, while they wage a hopeless battle against an army of diseases every day.