BBMP boots out waste disposal firm that never started work

BBMP terminated the contract with HBEPL after a series of notices and a nine-month-long wait.

After waiting for over nine months, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike has officially revoked the permission given to a vendor for delaying work on the waste management front. Hanjer Biotech Energy Private Ltd (HBEPL), whose Salem plant was visited by a 250-member delegation in September 25 2013, has been booted out from Bangalore.

The firm demanded extra time to set up the waste disposal plant to which the BBMP didn’t agree. Mayor B S Satyanarayana, who was earlier happy with the firm post his visit to their Salem plant in August 2013, said: “We had asked Hanjer to initiate the work in one month’s time, but they needed more time like 5 to 6 months. We couldn’t afford to wait for so long.”

Series of notices before termination

Two and a half years back, when garbage was still not a front page news, a tender was invited to set up a solid waste management unit, on September 8 2011. HBEPL won the bid. Accordingly an agreement was signed on December 14 2012 and the work order was issued on January 24 2013. BBMP also provided a bank guarantee of Rs 3.95 crores as performance security to HBEPL. Land measuring up to 10 acres was allocated near Subbarayana Palya to the firm to start the unit.

But, BBMP officials say that HBEPL never started the work, not even after it received several notices from BBMP. Instead, it asked BBMP to shift the garbage lying at the spot allocated to them and build a compound wall. However, as per the Clause 3.13 Schedule 2 of the agreement, the company was liable to do the work and not BBMP. The same was informed to the firm through a letter.

As per Clause 4.1 of the agreement signed between BBMP and HBEPL, an additional security of Rs 750 lakh was to be provided by the company to BBMP. The company failed to provide this security inspite of several notices.

Final notice was served on May 21 2013. However, KSPCB granted 10 days time to HBEPL to start the work. HBEPL submitted the plan to BBMP and got the approval after which BBMP gave extra time, only to regret it, as HBEPL did not start work.

Rajkot Municipal Corporation blacklists HBEPL

Citizen Matters had earlier written a report on how HBEPL’s Rajkot plant violated all rules and still continued to operate. Shailendrasinh Jadeja, the petitioner, had accused Hanjer of contaminating air and water in the villages surrounding HBEPL’s Rajkot plant. Rajkot Municipal Corporation issued a final notice to the company on September 24 2013 instructing Hanjer to work on improving the quality.

However, the National Green Tribunal judgment mandated that HBEPL pay Rs 20,000 as compensation to the affected villagers, and ordered HBEPL to complete the construction of compound wall etc. Going further, the Tribunal ordered the GPCB to “immediately approach the Urban Development Secretary of Gujarat Government and the concerned District Magistrate with a detailed report on the status of MSW facilities in the State, operated by the Municipal Corporations and Councils.”

Now Rajkot Municipal Corporation has blacklisted the company, and has also called tenders for new MSW disposal firms.

High level of Mercury in organic compost

HBEPL operates at 17 different locations in the country, including Pune. A team of activists from the NGO Nagrik Chetna Manch, tested the chemical properties of the composted manure produced in HBEPL’s Pune plant. It was found that the mercury level in the compost produced by the mixed waste segregation plant was showed Mercury at 4.8mg/kg while the limit set out in the Schedule 4 of MSW (Handling and Management) Rules 2000 is 0.15mg/kg. Thus the mercury level was 32 times more than the prescribed limit.

High level of mercury in the fertiliser will reach the soil to make it contaminated and toxic. This will also pose health hazards to human beings.

The test was repeated by the Maharashtra Agriculture Department, and the result was the same. After this find, the Maharashtra Agriculture Department has revoked HBEPL’s licence to produce compost in Pune Municipal Corporation limits. However, out of 1400 tonnes of city’s garbage, 1000 tonnes were being processed by HBEPL, so Pune Municipal Corporation wasn’t in a condition to take strict action against the company.

On the other hand, the Salem plant which the BBMP team visited has shut down. Salem-based activist Piyush Manush says that the firm continuously violated rules and was causing problems to the people living nearby. A report by Mumbai Mirror indicates that financially HBEPL is in shambles.

BBMP termination notice says, “The layout was approved with good faith.. to give further opportunity to start the work in view of the present crisis in Bangalore with regard to management of Municipal Solid Waste. Inspite of several opportunity Hanjer did not start the work… As per clause 7.2.1 of the agreement sufficient time (more than 9 months) was extended to you from the date of issue of the first notice.”

With this letter, the agreement was terminated and the BBMP took back the money paid as performance security from the bank. When asked whether the termination was just “due to delay in work,” or was it because of the reported violations by the company in many other plants in India, the Commissioner replied that he had heard about the violations and failures in other parts of the nation, but the decision to terminate the contract was taken on a case-to-case basis.

Says N S Ramakanth, an expert in the field of Solid Waste Management: “We should not process mixed waste. It is not environment-friendly. HBEPL has earned bad name all over the India… BBMP was very excited to sign a deal with them. However, we (the Expert Committee team) brought the facts of HBEPL together and showed them to BBMP, who finally took a wise decision to withdraw the permission.”

What next?

Mayor B S Sathyanarayana is not worried if one company doesn’t work, as there are many others lined up. He says, “There are many companies lined up, there is one German company who has stepped forward to start the work immediately.”

But N S Ramakanth sees bio-methanisation as the most viable next option. One such plant is already successfully working at ward 11, Kuvempunagar. The biogas produced through composting segregated waste is used in lighting 25 street lights in the ward.

BBMP has sanctioned 16 bio-methanisation plants of 5 tonnes capacity. These plants will generate 50 KW of power. Construction of these plants is in process at Mattikere, J P Nagar, Jayanagar, Kudlu and 12 other locations.

Construction at two locations i.e. K R Puram and R V Park, is on hold due to litigation, as people don’t want it near their place. N S Ramakanth believes that very soon the High Court may order setting up of composting units in each ward or constituency wherever there is enough space.

Six months ended, target not reached

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had set a deadline of six months to make the city garbage-free. But the city is still struggling to get the right technology in place. Segregation at source continues to be an issue even as rules to collect fines for non-segregation are drafted.

“Volume is huge,” says Commissioner Lakshmi Narayan. “We are making as much effort as possible to minimise the waste. If some pourakarmikas continue to mix waste, that is either because those areas do not have Dry Waste Collection Centre (DWCC) or because DWCC is non- functional.”

According to the Commissioner, 105 DWCCs are set up in the city and every ward collects about 2 tonnes of dry waste every day.

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