No progress on Waste to Energy plant in Kashmir; Developer raises questions

Recently, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) imposed a penalty of Rs 3 Crore on administration officials in the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir for not taking steps to control pollution and illegal mining in Doodhganga and Mamath Kul in Budgam District of Kashmir.

The NGT order said that the State be held liable to pay an interim compensation of Rs 1 crore each under all the three heads (solid waste, liquid waste, and illegal mining) and the money must be used for the restoration of the environment. The NGT also directed Principal Secretary J&K H&UDD to be personally present on the next date of hearing.

The state of J&K generates over 1800 TPD of solid waste, of which only one-third is treated. Most of the waste is dumped on hill slopes, water bodies, and other unused tracts of land. The State’s only sanitary landfill at Achan is overflowing, which prompted the State to announce a 5 MW Waste to Energy project in 2017, following an NGT order. The project never took off and there have been disagreements with the developer regarding the PPA. We spoke to the project’s developer Mr Kumail H. Ansari, Chairman – Syntech Bioenergy Pvt Ltd (SBPL) on the status of the project.

Mr Kumail H. Ansari,
Chairman – Syntech Bioenergy Pvt Ltd.

Q1. What is the status of the Srinagar WtE project sanctioned in 2017?

The status is exactly where it was in 2017. The Srinagar WtE Project is in a Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode with the Govt of J&K and primarily H&UDD as owner of this project. While disposing the petition in 2017, the NGT had ordered that the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) should be signed without delay and the project completed in 18 months. The PPA is yet to be signed and until that is done, we will not be able to move forward and begin executing the project.

Q2. What is the bottleneck with H&UDD?

Srinagar WtE Project PPA is a tripartite agreement between the Housing & Urban Development Department (Owner), Power Corporation Limited (Buyer) and Syntech Bioenergy Pvt Ltd (Developer). According to the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Power, GoI, the PPA must be executed within a timeframe of 30 days after the bidding process is completed and after the issuance of LOI to the awardee. Accordingly, the distribution licensee or the intermediary procurer was required to approach the appropriate commission for adoption of tariff in terms of Section 63 of the Electricity Act, 2003.

We are the developer, not a distribution licensee or intermediary procurer. The Joint Electricity Regulatory Commission (JERC) has, not surprisingly, declined to admit our tariff adoption request, stating that the PPA is unsigned and therefore has no local standing unless it’s signed. JERC also says that developer has no mandate to approach the Commission for filing the petition for the tariff adoption but deliberately, the owner of the project is directing us to approach the commission a draft PPA for it adoption.

Google map image of Achan landfill

Q3. Under the Public Private Partnership (PPP), all costs of the plant were to be borne by the developer. How much have you spent already?

We have almost spent nearly Rs 14 crores on this project. Contrary to the information given to us during the pre-bid, the site we have been allotted is outside the existing infrastructure; it has no approach road and is a wet land which is water-logged throughout the year. I was assured by H&UDD and SMC that we will be compensated for earth filling, etc but that hasn’t happened. Almost 50-60% of the land allotted has been levelled by us. For last four years, I am paying rents and salaries and have accumulated huge liabilities on our account. The total capital cost of the project in 2017 was estimated at Rs. 120 Crores, which is now at Rs. 200 Crores after four years of escalation.

Q5. What is your next course of action?

I am clear on my part: I am committed in doing this project and so is my team. I have written to the esteemed Chief Secretary, Dr. Arun Kumar Mehta, who is also the Chairman of the Monitoring Committee on SWM, UT of J&K, requesting that he chair a meeting of all stakeholders to be held on priority for the resolving the issue and bottlenecks in this project, which is so important to the people of Srinagar.

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