A CITY-BASED start-up that was running a waste-to-biofuel plant on Sus Road, Baner, has dragged the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) to the National Green Tribunal (NGT), citing “huge losses” due to the plant being shut down in 2016. The efforts of Noble Exchange Environment Solutions (NEX) were lauded and their concept was promoted by the central government for running a “model” waste-to-energy plant to be replicated by cities across the country.
The firm has sought a fine of Rs 15 crore against the civic body, Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) and the state environment department, under “restitution of the environment” according to section 15 of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010, for “environmental damage caused by an anti-scientific attitude”. In its plea, filed in November, the firm has also sought directions for restarting the plant for which it requires approximately Rs 10 crore.
The firm has alleged that the plant, established under the Maharashtra Solid Waste Rules, 2016, was shut down in 2016 because the PMC was unable to provide waste due to a protest by residents, incited by the real estate lobby that owns large tracts of land in that area.
The residents protested against the civic body and environment department stating that the plant’s functions were leading to a “foul smell and unhygienic conditions” in the area.
In their application, the firm stated that it had addressed all the issues, but further alleged that the PMC’s “indecisiveness and non-supportive attitude” had led to “huge losses”. In its application, NEX has sought directions from the NGT for the PMC to restart the plant where organic food waste is converted to biogas and organic manure. Both the products can be used as an alternate fuel for transport or can replace fossil fuels such as LPG (liquefied petroleum gas), diesel, furnace oil, and so on.
The applicant stated that the PMC could assess the actual cost that was required to make the machines functional again and give to it to NEX to resume operations smoothly. The firm has also sought for the NGT to issue directions to the PMC to implement “terms and conditions as mentioned in agreement with reference to solid waste management”. “The PMC should be directed to take assistance from the local police to create enabling situation for it to take on the project at the site on Sus Road, Baner,” stated the applicant.
In March 2015, the PMC signed an agreement with NEX to implement the project and allotted land measuring 1,494 sq m on Sus Road in Baner for segregating and crushing organic food waste into a slurry. The civic body also allotted the firm land in Talegaon Dhabade for processing the waste for 15 years. Thereafter, NEX took permission from the MPCB and environment clearance from the central government for the project that was commissioned within eight months of the agreement.
Over a year, the plant processed over 40,000 tonnes of food waste into clean and renewable energy. The urban development department at the Centre studied the project, prepared a short documentary and uploaded it on their e-learning portal as a “model solution” for urban cities in the country. The project was recognised by the petroleum ministry as well as the road transport ministry. The entire investment into the project was privately funded by large corporates such as Serum Institute of India led by Dr Cyrus Poonawalla and Adar Poonawalla.