For immediate release: UNFCCC is supporting a toxic disaster in Delhi

Press Contact:

Mariel Vilella
Climate Campaigner Zero Waste Europe
Phone # 0044 07847079154

Pratibha Sharma
Phone # +91 8411008973

Umesh Bahri
Scientist and Resident, Sukhdev Vihar Resident Welfare Association,
Delhi, India
Phone # +91 9811773129

What was touted by the UNFCCC as a clean and renewable energy project to manage Delhi’s waste has become a disturbing legacy of toxic pollution, displaced workers, and dishonest governance.

The Okhla “waste-to-energy” incinerator in Delhi has been accredited under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) under their “Clean Development Mechanism” (CDM) program, created to support innovations that reduce carbon emissions. Yet the Okhla incinerator has been a disaster for those living near it, and residents have repeatedly sued over excessive emissions of dioxins and heavy metals. The matter was heard 27 times in the High Court before being shifted to the National Green Tribunal where there have been more than 50 hearings since and still counting. Two major hospitals in the area have also complained to the prime minister’s office about the hazards to patients[7].

“It is unfortunate that there is such blatant fraud on the UNFCCC’s carbon credit mechanism as well as on the conditions on which the environment clearance was granted by Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change in India” said Umesh C. Bahri, a resident of Sukhdev Vihar and a scientist familiar with accreditation processes. “Though the UNFCCC has been notified of the fraud, no action has been taken.”

In addition to concerns about toxic pollution, residents note that the incinerator is undermining one of Delhi’s best climate solutions— Delhi’s informal recyclers. The workers are responsible for significant annual emissions reductions [9]. If the waste to energy project burns even one-quarter of Delhi’s recyclables, it will effectively wipe out its own emissions savings, resulting in no net emissions reductions.

“Incinerating waste, which are actually recyclables, deprives us of our already meagre livelihoods,” say Zainab Bibi one of an army of waste pickers engaged in collecting and recycling plastic waste in the Okhla area. “There is no alternate employment available to us.”

But because the CDM has not calculated the project’s impact on recycling, it will continue to award the company hundreds of thousands of spurious carbon credits – credits which do not represent real emissions reductions.

“Climate action is about justice and sustainability, not about poisoning people and snatching away livelihoods,” said Bharati Chaturved the director of a wastepicker rights group Chintan, Delhi, “But this is what the Okhla waste-to-energy plant has done-displace nearly 300 waste pickers, and consequently, 63% of their children out of school. For this, it has received carbon credits. Is this how the world will fight climate change? By funding poverty creation? The new climate finance regime must put decent, sustainable livelihoods and the poor at its centre.”

The plant blatantly violates other state regulations for polluting industries, being barely 150 meters from long-established residential areas, posing unacceptable health risks[6] to neighbouring residents.Despite such a long tainted record for this incinerator plant, the UNFCCC has issued a total of 438,793 Certified Emission Reduction credits (CERs) in the past five years and will continue to provide CERs under the CDM until 2021.

Many organizations across the country and world are calling on the UNFCC to stop funding incinerator projects like the one in Okhla, which have repeatedly proven to be sources of both toxic and climate pollution.[7] Their demands include an immediate investigation of the incinerator to ensure compliance with the current CDM modalities and procedures, compensation from the UNFCCC for the harm this project has caused residents, and a commitment to ensure that climate finance is devoted to truly sustainable, low-carbon, and toxic free projects in India and globally.