Waste to Energy Plants in Delhi destroying Waste Picker Livelihoods and harming the environment

Waste to Energy is the new craze in waste management in India. Fueled by the accessibility of carbon credit financing, these plants are not only environmentally unsound but is also competing for waste with the hundreds of thousands of waste pickers who eke out a livelihood from recycling trash.


  1. The Waste to Energy plant in Okhla was commissioned in 2005. From the start there were protests from both the middle-class residents that live around the plant site, as well as from waste picker and environmental groups. The project has raised huge headlines, mostly because it's located in one of Delhis most affluent neighborhoods. However besides the impact it has on the residents, an equally important side of the story is the impact it has on waste pickers. 
  2. The Waste Picker Story

  3. Waste pickers are workers in the informal economy who recover recyclable materials from waste. They labor on the frontlines of the fight against climate change, earning livelihoods from recovery and recycling, reducing demand for natural resources, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Yet their successes are being undermined by "waste-to-energy" incinerators and landfills, and until 2009, they were notably absent from climate change discussions.
  4. The Residents Story

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  6. Legal Challenges

  7. After visiting the plant on April 1, in response to mass rallies and protests by Okhla residents, MoEF minister Jairam Ramesh wrote to Dikshit pointing out two grave violations: the failure of the state government to hold adequate public consultations, and Jindal Ecopolis’ failure to seek mandatory clearance from the CPCB.
  8. Giant toxic waste incinerator in Sukhdev Vihar violates many laws, affects lakhs
  9. Background Information

  10. The science doesn’t add up, according to Gopal Krishna, convenor of Toxics Watch Alliance, a non-governmental organization (NGO). The waste at the landfills is composed of 60% organic waste, while the rest is mostly ash, dust and sand. “Municipal waste in Delhi has a calorific value of 800-900 kilo calories (kcal), while the generation of power requires at least 1,200 kcal if not more,” Krishna said. “Burning this waste will only add pollutants to the air, resulting in environmental lawlessness in the capital.”
  11. A previous project had been set up in the early 1990s in the same location. It proved to be a complete failure, not in small part due to the issue mentioned above.
  12. In published guidelines, titled ‘Management of Municipal Solid Waste’, the CPCB has specifically cautioned local bodies "not to adopt expensive technologies of power generation, fuel pelletisation, incineration etc until they are proven under Indian conditions by the Government of India (GoI) or expert agencies nominated by the GoI."
  13. The Global Alliance Against Incinerators (GAIA) provides a detailed overview of the project and the problems that it causes: