Mumbai's gutkha to spread light in Pune

Jan 07, 2013, 06:47 IST | Urvashi Seth

Gutkha packets seized from the city after last year's ban will be sent to Pune waste management plant, where they will be treated and used to produce electricity

Here’s inspiration for some very creative destruction. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was wracking its brains over what to do with the millions of gutkha pouches it had seized since last year’s ban on tobacco, when suddenly the light bulb went on. Quite literally. The food watchdog decided to dispatch the packets to a waste management plant in Pune where they will be destroyed, treated and used to generate power.

FDA officials seized kilos of gutkha from a train at CST last month, following the July ban on the tobacco product. Pic/Bipin Kokate

But why Pune and not our own power-starved city? Because destroying the packets costs money here, Rs 2,12,000 for the eight tonnes of seized gutkha. In Pune, the annihilation will be done free of cost. “In Mumbai, there were sundry issues involved for the destruction of the packets,” said an FDA official. “Our corporation (BMC) would have charged us Rs 26.50 for destroying every kilo of gutkha pouches. Also, seeking permissions from various authorities was delaying the process.”

So after a study, the FDA decided to ship the seized spoils to the Pune waste management plant. Said Joint Commissioner (Food) Suresh Deshmukh, “We wrote to the commissioner of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), and the PMC agreed to carry out the destruction for no cost at all. All we have to bear now is the transportation cost.”

Addictive to productive
Deshmukh said, “On January 11, we will transport the first bulk of gutkha packets. The seized packets kept at the CST and Mumbai Central stations will be shifted first, followed by those lying in the FDA offices. To begin with, we will take one of the eight tonnes of gutkha.” He added, “We will be happy if such an injurious product ends up benefiting someone.”

Earlier, the FDA intended to dig a huge pit in the Deonar dumping ground to dispose the pouches. The officials had even sought permissions from the BMC. On July 16, the government banned the production, sale and storage of gutkha in the state. Gutka manufacturers had filed more than 15 writ petitions against the ban due to which the FDA could not destroy the sachets recovered.

However, the high court rejected the stay in eight such petitions and allowed FDA to start the disposal of packets from September 25. Since then, the department had been seeking permissions from the civic authorities to destroy the packets, but things were moving too slowly.

Pune’s waste plant
The solid waste management facility in Pune, Rochem Green Energy Pvt Ltd, started operations on September 15 last year. It is said to be the first such plant in the country which uses garbage to generate electricity. RGEPL disposes about 250 tonnes of waste every day and generates about 2.5 MW of electricity. About 70 tonnes of garbage generates 1 mega watt of electricity. 

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