“One must be a sea, to receive a polluted stream without becoming impure.

“? Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra Fly Ash is a grossly under-utilised resource for a long time. Fly ash, like soil, contains trace concentrations of many heavy metals that are known to be detrimental to health in sufficient quantities. These include nickel, vanadium, arsenic, molybdenum, zinc, lead, selenium, uranium, thorium, radium, etc. Though these elements are found in extremely lowconcentrations in fly ash, their mere presence has prompted some to sound alarm. Fly ash is dumped into poorly designed and maintained ash ponds.

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An estimate of about a billion tonne of these toxic ash lie dumped in these ponds, polluting land, air and water. Although fly ash has an immense potential in agriculture, there are some possible concerns which need to be attended to, such as release of toxic elements into ground water, germination of some crop may get reduced at high levels of fly ash applications, uptake of heavy metals and toxic elements by the plants etc. Fly Ash Utilisation Programme has commissioned a set of Technology Demonstration projects under different agro-climatic conditions and soil-crop combinations towards a confidence building exercise.Fly ash is useful in modification of soil texture and bulk density, improvement of water holding capacity, optimisation of soil pH, as a micronutrient supplement to soil and creation of conducive condition for better plant growth. Since the introduction of FaL-G in 1991, fly ash brick activity has been revolutionised in India. Founder, Dr Bhanumathidas and Kalidas have simplified the process by adding gypsum and lime , converting the calcium aluminates into calcium alumino-sulphates resulting in high early strengths.

FaL-G brick does not need any pressure and gets cured at ambient temperature of 20-40 °C. By avoiding both press and heating chamber, the multi-million plant costs to a few lakhs, within the reach of micro units. India is still developing and needs to reach enormous demand  for building material.This would allow two things—one, to reuse the fly ash at power plants which otherwise destroys environment, soil and water and secondly, it will also minimise use of clay bricks whose production is highly polluting and damages the topsoil. Therefore, such a move could help, but key would be to ensure implementation of such a decision. In the wake of the Bhopal Tragedy, the Government of India enacted the Environment Protection Act of 1986 .

Section 3 of the said Act empowers the Central Government to take measures to protect and improve environment.  In 1994, the government of India started the flyash mission (FAM) — under the Technology Information Forecasting and Assessment Council of the Department of Science and Technology (DoST) — with the aim to increase flyash utilisation in the country. 55 in 1st phase and 13 Technology Demonstration Projects in second phase had been undertaken for the utilization of this salvageable fritter. On 14th, September, 1999, a principal notification was published in the gazette of india that instructed brick, tiles or block manufacturers within a radius of fifty kilometers from coal or lignite based thermal power plants, to use fly ash in construction activities without mixing at least 25 per cent with soil on weight to weight basis. Manufacture of ash-based products in construction activity such as in road laying, embankments , use as landfill to reclaim low lying areas including back filling in abandoned mines or pitheads and any other use shall be carried out in accordance with specifications and guidelines laid down by the State Public Works Departments and other Central and State Government agencies. To tackle this issue , the govt. Issued 5- year plan for 100% utilization of ash.

The revised order in 2003, expanded to a radius of 100 kilometres of a coal or lignite based thermal power plant. Permitted only pond ash to be used for compaction in accordance with the by-laws, regulations and specifications laid down. Low lying lands reclaimed with fly ash are being used for growing vegetable crops at Rihandnagar, U.P.

To encourage manufacturers using fly-ash in manufacturing of their products, the Government of Uttar Pradesh had issued notification dated 18.06.1997, granting “rebate of tax” to the dealers in the State of Uttar Pradesh using fly-ash purchased within the state. Also , Soil required for top or side covers of embankments of roads or flyovers shall be excavated from the embankment site according to the notification . The topsoil should be kept or stored separately. Voids created due to soil borrow area shall be filled up with ash with proper compaction and covered with topsoil kept separately as above. This would be done as an integral part of embankment project within the time schedule of the project. And whereas it is observed that construction agencies are yet to achieve their targets of utilization of fly ash based products even after 31st August, 2007, the date prescribed for 100% utilisation of fly ash based products in the said notification of 1999.

It is also observed that many thermal power stations or plants are also yet to achieve the targets drawn up in their action plans. Over the years , the  the policies were intensified to make use of more fly ash. Pond ash to be supplied free of cost for purpose of landfilling. Fly ash bricks, blocks, tiles, etc. made with fly ash, lime, gypsum, sand, stone dust, cement , etc.

had to use fly ash as 50% of raw material and further 5 year plans for 100% utilization  were also suggested in 2009 . The use of flyash products was made compulsory for any construction agency. Later in 2016, the ministry has also made it mandatory for power plants to give fly ash free of cost to users within 300-kilometre-radius.The notification makes it mandatory for cement industries, within radius of 300 kilometers of a coal or lignite based thermal power plant, to use fly ash for manufacture of the cement as per the specifications of Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). The cost of transportation of fly ash is to be borne collectively by the thermal power plant and the industry concerned.

Some difficulty in achieving the target lies in getting manufacturers to use fly ash. Government notification stresses upon all clay brick manufacturers to mix at least 50 per cent ash in clay for brick making. But many, even today, refuse to deviate from traditional brick making as the brick kiln contractors prefer clay, as they do not have to pay any royalty on amounts of soil dug out. Fly ash was considered as a polluting industrial waste in 1994 and for all practical purposes there were neither fly ash users nor willing workers at that time, has become a sought after material today. The utilisation has reached to about 65 million tonne per year from the level of 1 million tonne per year. Thousands of people are now working in this area.

Statutory and policy measures supported by national standards, specifications and guidelines are now in place to facilitate large scale utilisation of fly ash on sustainable basis. Though much more needs to be done on these fronts to take the utilisation levels to 100%. A lot of research has turned around the image of fly ash from ” a polluting industrial waste ” to “a resource material “.

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