The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has imposed penalties of up to ₹5 crore on thermal power plants that have not fully disposed of the fly ash they generated.
According to an NGT order published on Monday, the “environmental damages” for not meeting the 100% fly ash disposal criterion will have to be deposited with the Central Pollution Control Board in a month, failing which these power plants will have to pay interest of 12% per annum.
The order is significant because of the high contribution of fly ash to air and water pollution and its impact on crops being grown in villages around these plants.
Fly ash is a major source of PM 2.5 (fine, respirable pollution particles) in summer. It becomes airborne and gets transported to a radius of 10 to 20 km. It can settle on water and other surfaces. Fly ash contains heavy metals from coal, a large amount of PM 2.5 and black carbon (BC). Proper disposal of fly ash is still not happening in many places.
Fly ash, the end product of combustion during the process of power generation in the coal-based thermal power plants, is a proven resource material for many applications of construction industries and currently is being utilized in manufacturing of Portland Cement, bricks/blocks/tiles manufacturing, road embankment construction and low lying area development, etc.
At present, 63% of the fly ash is being utilized and the target is for 100% utilization of the fly ash. There is a need for education and awareness generation.
Road contractors and construction engineers need to know the benefits of using fly ash in construction.
Measures need to be taken to reduce the cost of construction of roads using fly ash by way of the tax structure, subsidies, and transportation services.
Besides, there is a need to prevent the ash from coming to the power plant by washing the coal at its place of origin. The government should also come out with a policy to encourage fly ash use in cement plant.