New Delhi: In order to ensure complete utilization of fly ash from thermal power plants, an expert panel of the Union environment ministry has decided to form a multi-disciplinary committee to examine the possibility of setting up cement plants along with such plants.
The decision was taken at the environment ministry’s Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) for thermal power projects on 14 February.
It came after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in January 2017 directed the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) to examine the feasibility of setting up captive cement plants near thermal power plants either by project proponents themselves or by joint venture for effective utilisation of fly ash generated from power plants.
The expert committee, during its meeting, noted that cement plants require nearly 70-80% of limestone for manufacturing clinker which is grinded for making cement.
“Only 20-30% of fly ash is being currently used in making Pozzolana Portland Cement (PPC). Though there are technologies available worldwide for using 80% of fly ash in cement manufacturing, it is not practised in India for various reasons,” the committee said.
“EAC after deliberations, suggested that the information regarding availability of required natural resources around the thermal power plants and feasibility of setting up of captive cement plants may be obtained from the respective project proponents of the thermal power plants. A sub-committee may be formed with the representative ministry of mines, ministry of power, CEA (Central Electricity Authority), Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) and ministry of coal for examination,” said the minutes of the EAC’s meeting, which were reviewed by Mint.
“Based on the report from the sub-committee, a decision of feasibility of setting up of cement plant may be arrived,” the committee noted.
Every year, millions of tonnes of fly ash is generated across India and this prompted the MoEFCC in 1999, 2003, 2009 and in 2016 to issue directions for its proper use and disposal, mandating it for use in building material and in construction activities like road building.
As per various studies, only about 50-60% of the total fly ash generated by the power sector is being utilised. In 2015, about 180 million tonnes of fly ash was produced across India and by 2025, it is estimated to reach 300 million tonnes a year. With that, utilization of all the fly ash being generated is going to become tougher.
The unutilized fly ash is dumped into poorly designed and maintained ash ponds and it is estimated that about a billion tonne of this toxic ash lies dumped in these ponds, polluting land, air and water.