MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s capital has reached a deal to burn waste for electricity despite the project’s environmental risks, including the possibility that emissions will exceed the range permitted under federal regulations.
The goal of the contract that the Mexico City government’s Urban Management Agency (AGU) signed with Proactiva Medio Ambiente, a unit of French group Veolia, is to eliminate 4,500 tons of solid waste per day – nearly a third of the city’s total – and leverage the heat produced in the waste-burning process to generate 965,000 megawatt-hours of electricity annually.
This energy will be used to power the capital’s metro system, which transports more than 5.5 million people daily.
But environmental watchdog Greenpeace opposes the project, pointing to various red flags in the contract.
For example, in the risk section, it is accepted that contaminating emissions could be above the range permitted under environmental regulations.
“These could include not only greenhouse gases but also cancer-causing substances like dioxins and furans that are emitted as a result of waste incineration and accumulate in the body and the environment,” Greenpeace attorney Carlos Samayoa warned.
He said the principles of prevention and precaution established in international agreements like the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development should be applied in this instance.
The Rio Declaration states that “where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.”
Greenpeace also warned that another clause in the contract for the thermovalorization plant states that if the amount of waste is not sufficient to generate the electricity the metro system requires the AGU will provide additional waste as feedstock.
The thermovalorization plant will be the first of its kind in Latin America and the first to be built at an altitude of 2,400 meters (7,870 feet) above sea level.
Construction is scheduled to begin in late 2018 if the plant is found to be in compliance with various local and federal environmental requirements.