The Odisha state government, in India, has decided that it will use only fly ash generated from various power plants to functioning in the state to manufacture bricks in a bid to safeguard the environment.

To begin with, officials have decided to make use of fly ash bricks mandatory for buildings in the urban areas, but this may extend to other more rural areas also.

The plan came afoot during a review meeting taken up by chief secretary Aditya Prasad Padhi, where discussions were made on proper utilisation of fly ash generated from the thermal power plants. During the meeting, an idea was cropped up to use fly ash bricks in construction of buildings in the city areas.

To execute the plan, the chief secretary has directed the housing and urban development department to come up with necessary building by-laws that will make use of the fly ash bricks mandatory for construction of any city buildings. At present, the building laws do not have any such provisions.

“There are six major thermal power plants in the state, which are generating fly ash extensively. Fly ash is hazardous for the environment, but we have provision for its proper utilisation. We need to ensure 100 per cent utilisation of fly ash, for which we have come up with the idea,” said a department official.

Sources said the building by-laws would be amended for those cities in the state, which have population of more than one million. But, only Bhubaneswar qualifies in the category. “The by-laws will be enforced first in Bhubaneswar. Later, we will explore the possibility to replicate the same in other cities,” said the official.

Experts said the fly ash disposal remained a major problem with only about 50 to 60 per cent of the total fly ash generated by the power sector was being utilised. The remaining is dumped into poorly maintained ash ponds. According to estimates, about one million tonnes of this toxic ash lie dumped in these ponds, polluting land, air and water.

“It is important to protect the environment by conserving the top soil and prevent dumping of fly ash from thermal power plants on land. There has to be efforts to promote utilisation of ash in the manufacture of building materials and construction activity,” said environmentalist Alok Kar.

At present, fly ash bricks are used in some of the bigger construction activities in the city. But, a large section of people, mainly the smaller housing project holders, are still unaware of its use. “It can only go for wider use if the authorities make it mandatory to use. I hope the plans will materialise,” said Kar.

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