6 April 2023 4:21 AM GMT
The Supreme Court on Wednesday observed that it is not necessary to consider at the present stage an application to stay the proposed expansion of the Okhla Waste-to-Energy (WTE) plant in Delhi from 23 MW to 40 MW. This is in view of the statement made by the plant operator that it will take at least 18 months to completeA bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice JB Pardiwala...
The Supreme Court on Wednesday observed that it is not necessary to consider at the present stage an application to stay the proposed expansion of the Okhla Waste-to-Energy (WTE) plant in Delhi from 23 MW to 40 MW. This is in view of the statement made by the plant operator that it will take at least 18 months to complete
A bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice JB Pardiwala was hearing an interlocutory application in a challenge against a 2017 National Green Tribunal (NGT) decision allowing the Okhla incineration plant to continue its operations.
In January this year, an expert appraisal committee (EAC) under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change granted permission for the expansion of the plant after conditionally denying it in September last year. After senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, appearing on behalf of the project developer, Jindal ITF Urban Infrastructure Limited, told the bench that the process of expansion and operationalisation of the plant to the enhanced capacity would take about 18 months, the top court refused to entertain the application seeking a stay on the expansion plan. “In view of the above statement of Mr Ranjit Kumar, it is not necessary to entertain the interlocutory application at the present stage,” the bench led by chief justice said. However, the bench added, the main appeal ought to be finally disposed of at the earliest. Accordingly, the bench decided to list the matter on July 19, 2023.
Even while permitting the Timarpur Okhla Waste Management Company to enhance the processing capacity of its WTE facility in Okhla, Chief Justice Chandrachud clarified that any step towards implementing the environment ministry’s permission for the enhancement of its capacity would not be accepted as a fait accompli after the final disposal of the civil appeal on any equitable grounds. The Supreme Court judge said:
“Any steps which are taken by the concessioner towards implementing the permission for enhancement of the capacity from 23 MW to 40 MW shall be subject to the final result of the appeal and shall not create any equities.”
The incineration plant was constructed at an open dump in Okhla as a public-private venture between Jindal ITF Urban Infrastructure Limited and the Delhi government and commissioned in 2012. Built to handle solid municipal waste and meet the national capital’s growing need for power, the Okhla WTE plant was touted as the first and largest integrated waste management project set up in the country.
However, local residents opposed the move and approached the Delhi High Court. Eventually, the case was transferred to the National Green Tribunal on January 23, 2013. Apart from the residents based in the areas surrounding the plant – Sukhdev Vihar, Jasola, East Ishwar Nagar, Ghaffar Manzil Extension – the Uttar Pradesh government objected to the construction of the WTE plant on the ground that it was built within a ten kilometre eco-sensitive zone around the Okhla Bird Sanctuary without first securing the approval of the National Board for Wildlife (NBW). Other groups, including nature conservationists, and waste recycler unions unhappy about being deprived of their livelihoods, also banded against the incineration plant.
In February 2017, the National Green Tribunal ultimately delivered a verdict that was favourable to the incineration facility owned and operated by the Jindal group and the controversial waste-to-energy plant was allowed to continue running, subject to a payment of an environmental compensation of Rs 25 lakh. This decision of a bench headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar was challenged before the top court, where it has been pending for the last five years.
Ravinder Chanana & Ors. v. The State of Delhi Delhi Secretariat Chief Secretary | Civil Appeal No. 13120 of 2017
Click here to read the order