Mumbai gets its first biomethanation plant

Updated: Nov 11, 2021

The biomethanation plant built at Haji Ali aims to electrify streets and reduce methane emissions in the city of Mumbai.

 

Recently, the financial capital of India got its first biomethanation plant to help convert wet waste into biogas by burning the organic waste for the production of electricity as well as natural gas.

Set up by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and built by AeroCare Clean Energy, the plant is capable of converting two metric tonnes of organic waste into 300 units of electricity per day, which in turn can be used to power streets and gardens near Haji Ali, especially the Keshavrao Khade Marg enclosure.

“The plant lays the foundation for the reduction of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. With Mumbai being signed as a city under the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, the Mumbai Climate Action Plan, the building of the biomethanation plant seems like the first step towards reaching the goal,” said Mukta Salunkhe, a climate fellow at the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, Government of Maharashtra.


The Environment and Tourism Minister, Aaditya Thackrey, inaugurating the biomethanation plant.

The Rs 95 lakh initiative was inaugurated by Aaditya Thackrey, the Environment and Tourism Minister of Maharashtra, in September. The biomethanation plant is scheduled to be set up with the help of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds to electrify the D ward comprising Grant Road, Walkeshwar, Malabar Hill, Breach Candy and Haji Ali. The plant will need around 2,000 litres of water everyday which the BMC is planning to source, in order to process 350 metric tonnes of waste into biogas with an aim to generate electricity.

“As part of the Greenhouse Gas Inventory (GHGI) under the Mumbai Climate Action Plan, we came to the conclusion that the energy sector was the highest greenhouse gas emitting one in Mumbai, emitting 71 percent of the greenhouse gases,” Mukta said.

Besides this particular biomethanation plant, the state government is preparing to build two more plants at the Deonar and Kanjurmarg dumping grounds.

The Deonar Dispute

Mumbai generates nearly 6,000 metric tonnes of waste per day, and the Deonar dumping ground receives a whopping 4,000 metric tonnes of it. The project was brought to a halt in 2014 and was reintroduced in the year 2018 after reducing the plant capacity from 3,000 to 600 metric tonnes. Several environmentalists and citizens protested against the WTE plant during the online public hearing that had been held in April.

“When a public hearing is conducted, due notice needs to be given to the citizens. Technical reports have to be made available in multiple languages and open for scrutiny,” said Ecologist Anand Pendharkar.

According to the Mumbai Climate Action Plan (MCAP), Deonar experiences the highest levels of pollution in Mumbai. The residents living near the dumping ground have lower life expectancy rates and suffer from several respiratory issues. As mentioned by the authorities, though the plant will help in managing the waste at Deonar dumping ground, the leftovers can prove to be hazardous and have a negative impact on the health of the residents living nearby.

Why are waste to energy plants shutting down in India?

The first waste to energy plant was built in 1987 in Delhi, and was shut down due to the inability to segregate waste and obtain the required fuel calorific value. Similarly, six more plants in cities including Lucknow, Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Karimnagar, Bangalore and Kanpur closed down too. However, today, there are several of them up and running in Kerala, Delhi, Amritsar, Ahmedabad.


Representational image of a biomethanation plant.

The NITI Aayog had set up the Waste to Energy Corporation of India through Public Private partnership (PPP) under the BJP government’s Swachh Bharat Mission. In 2017, the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) invited several participants to build 100 waste to energy plants in India.

“It is not a way to reduce our energy footprint, it is a method to garner more and more and therefore it cannot be a sustainable model. We are not creating an energy efficient system, we are creating an energy greedy system,” Pendharkar said.

Biomethanation plants are already playing a pivotal role in reducing carbon emissions and laying the road to better usage of renewable energy. But a large number of citizens and environmentalists are opposing the idea because burning the unprocessed waste will only lead to rising pollution.

 

Edited by Roshni Shroff

Written by Aparajita Ghosh

 

Some resources to help you understand how biomethanation plants work:

Biomethanation shows potential for waste to energy projects in India

‘Biomethanation plant only way out for Sonsoddo dump’