Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Technology Made, but Not Used, in India ; Waste-to-Energy System Is Stifled by Bureaucracy and a Lack of Incentives

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Technology Made, but Not Used, in India ; Waste-to-Energy System Is Stifled by Bureaucracy and a Lack of Incentives

Article excerpt

India's output of trash grew nearly 50 percent in the decade ending in 2011, but bureaucratic hurdles -- and the nature of the trash itself -- have hampered efforts to burn it for electricity.

K.S. Sivaprasad, an engineer from India, spent four decades perfecting a factory that accepts city trash, dries it, picks out the burnable elements and ignites them to create electricity. His first full-scale plant chews through 700 tons of garbage a day and delivers 5.5 megawatts to the power grid.

The unfortunate part is that the plant is in Malaysia, not India, where the process was invented. Mr. Sivaprasad, an energetic 80- year-old, went abroad after repeatedly trying to build his project in India but finding that the system was stacked against him, he says.

India tosses out more than 188 million tons of garbage each day but is falling behind other Asian nations in early efforts to turn it into electricity. The Chinese government claims to be on track to produce three gigawatts of power from city waste-to-energy factories by 2015, and Malaysia plans to build a second, larger plant based on Mr. Sivaprasad's design.

Meanwhile, India has captured methane from several large landfills and has built six facilities that pull out and ignite flammable trash, turning it into what is known as refuse-derived fuel. But these six fuel factories, which rely on new refuse, have either shut down or they barely run, victims of equipment failure or bureaucratic snarls that paradoxically leave them short of garbage.

Why? "It is the million-dollar question," Mr. Sivaprasad said. "I don't know what to say. India has a lot of hurdles, you know, very bureaucratic. Very difficult. In short, if you put it in a nutshell, technology developed in India has come up in another country."

India's output of trash grew nearly 50 percent in the decade ending in 2011, driven by swelling urban populations that adopted parts of the throwaway Western lifestyle. Those same demographics account for a surge in power use that has left the country chronically short of electricity and major cities prey to rolling blackouts.

One problem is the nature of trash in the poorer countries of Asia: it is soggier than that of Europe, the United States or Japan and does not easily catch fire. In India, the urban waste mix is nearly 47 percent water, according to a study by the Earth Engineering Center at Columbia University in New York. Urbanites in poorer Asian countries cook more of their own food, while more affluent Westerners use more disposable (and flammable) plastic and paper. As a result, urban waste in the developed world is embedded with 10 megajoules of power per ton, while that of countries like India contains just 7.3 megajoules.

The waste-to-energy effort lies at the intersection of two heavy industries, energy production and waste disposal, both of which are hampered by a thick layer of bureaucracy, turf battles among local, state and national governments and demands for bribes by middlemen. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.