Punjab’s first solid waste management plant in Bathinda is still to run to its full capacity even as it has been five years since it started operations as a cluster model to be replicated across the state to address the problem of processing municipal waste.

Managed by Delhi-based Jindal Infrastructure Transportation and Fabrication (JITF), the plant was to generate electricity and produce manure from the municipal waste. But since the waste from 17 urban local bodies (other than Bathinda) was not transported to the processing site, the plant never ran at its full capacity since 2016.

The project under the public-private partnership (PPP) mode was designed to manage 350 tonnes of municipal waste every day from the cluster of 18 urban local bodies of southern Punjab districts of Mansa, Muktsar and Fazilka besides Bathinda.

But the project, conceived and executed by the previous Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (SAD-BJP) government, ran into rough weather after the promoter and the Bathinda municipal corporation got entangled in arbitration in 2019 over claims for its poor working.

JITF director VS Luthra was unavailable for comments.

Company officials said their main contention was non-payment of tipping fee by the MC for collection of garbage and non-availability of additional land for the second phase of the sanitary landfill site. “The firm demanded 758 crore from the municipality for causing it a loss due to non-execution of work and investment of 100 crore in machinery,” said an official.

The civic body, on the other hand, has sought damages of 872 crore from the company for its alleged inability to run the plant as per agreement. MC superintending engineer HS Bhullar said a three-member panel of arbitrators heard the matter last on April 20 this year and the next date is yet to be announced.

“The civic body is collecting about 120 tonnes of waste and transporting it to the processing site daily. It is the duty of the JITF to collect the waste from rest of the municipal bodies. In the absence of sufficient material, JITF has failed to start the waste-to-energy project,” said Bhullar.

Officials said when the project was initiated in 2011, it faced opposition from the residents of the areas around the project site.

“For more than three decades, a large open space on the Bathinda-Mansa road was used for dumping waste. When the administration initiated a scientific disposal project, a section of people opposed the project, claiming that the method was hazardous. The construction work started only in 2015 after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) gave it a clearance,” said the source.

Following an agitation in the run-up to the last assembly elections, Manpreet Badal (now finance minister) had announced to shift the plant to a new site. But the MC took no step in the last four-and-a-half years to find an alternate project site.


Source: 09 August, 2021, Hindustan Times