Burnt out

A RECENT move by the Maurya Sheraton, a five-star hotel in New Delhi (the only hotel in the Asia-Pacific region to be awarded the prestigious diploma of excellence at the 1993 Pollution Solutions Environmental Awards), to further boost its 'green image' al but blew up on its face.

The hotel had purchased a pyrolator for reducing its organic wastes into ash manure; the device was to be inaugurated on June 6 (World Environment Day). The model, jp 50/1, was developed by the Kerala-based Jaison Pyrolators, and is reported to have cost the hotel Rs 7 to 8 lakhs. Requiring 22 Kw of energy to heat organic waste at 600-700'c into ash manure, it had received approval from the Kerala State Pollution Control Board in 1992.

Sustained efforts by Shristi, a non- governmental organisation involved in municipal waste technology, convinced the hotel that installing a pyrolator was not a good idea. Stated Ravi Agarwal, one of the members of Shristi, "They [Maurya] can go ahead and install a pyrolator if they like. After all it is their money and it is their hotel. My only objection is that they should not do it under an 'environmentally friendly' heading because that wouldn't be accurate."

Maurya finally decided to stop the installation of the pyrolator after a meeting with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on June 10. According to CPCB's D K Biswas, the board advised Maurya against installation of the pyrolator because it was concerned that the low temperatures of the pyrolator would not sufficiently dispose off the waste and instead release dangerous dioxins into the air.

Interestingly, a press release issued by Maurya, extolling the benefits of the pyrolator, did not specify whether purely organic wastes would be used. Also despite its green image, the hotel did not examine locally available indigenous technology, which is much more cost- effective, energy producing, and an environment-friendly way of using organic waste as a resource.

Krishna Mohan, micro-biologist at the Tata Energy Research Institute, Delhi, stated that installing a bio- digestor at a place like Maurya, would cost just over Rs 1 lakh. "We have installed one such bio-digestor,at the Nirula Hotel in Noida over a year ago." Dipak Nirula, director of the hotel, remarked, "Methane (with which water is heated for the boiler), sludge (for compost) and water, is generated from the bio-digestor."

Whether scuttling the pyrolator was a face-saving act or not, the incident brings to the fore an obsession at tackling Waste as an end-of-the-pipe problem, and a stubborn refusal on the part of the government and industry to try and address the problem at the source. What the government needs to inform people, is whether these short-term solutions are the answers to their ecological problems. And more importantly, why are-we producing technologies that have been rejected across the globe?

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