All coal and lignite-based thermal power plants utilize 100% fly ash in the production of construction section products, as stated in the notification issued by MoEFCC. The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has notified the last amendments to the Environment (Protection) Act for better monitoring and utilization of fly ash by coal-based thermal power plants (TPP) in India. The notice said areas, where fly ash is stored, can also be reclaimed by setting up solar and wind power plants along with plantations. As stated earlier, this new MOEFCC notification mandates fly ash utilization by TPP. Nivit Kumar Yadav, program director for the industrial pollution unit of the Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), said, “Discussions from a senior official of MoEFCC have been released to clarify previous notice”.
Major Highlights of MOEFCC Notification
- It will be mandatory for Thermal Power Plants (TPP) to ensure 100% utilization of fly ash within 3 to 5 years.
- A fine of INR 1000 is to be charged on non-compliant plants under the polluter pays principle. This principle is the commonly accepted practice that those who are polluting the environment should bear the costs of managing it to prevent damage to the environment and human health.
- Under this, collected fines will be deposited in a designated account for the Central Pollution Board (CPB). This will be used towards the safe disposal of non-utilized ash.
- The notification also deals with legacy ash (non-utilized accumulated ash) where TPPs have to utilize it within 10 years in a staggered manner, from the date of publication of final notification.
- As stated in sub-para 6 of last notification, the utilization of fly ash was not required in areas with the reclamation of plantations or greenbelts.
- Solar and wind power plants will exempt TPPs from fly ash utilization.
- In case of non-utilization of legacy ash at the end of 10 years, a fine of INR 1000 per ton will be imposed on the remaining non-utilized quantity that was not fined earlier.
As the previous notification needed more clarification, the time for utilization has been extended to 3 years starting from 1-April-2022.
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Objectives and Need of MOEFCC Notification
The main objective of this initiative is to deal with hazardous fly ash generated from coal and lignite-based thermal power plants (TPPs). Unused ash gets dumped in an environmentally hazardous way polluting air, soil, and water. Therefore, fly ash utilization was needed in India and its application increased nearly 10% in 1996-1997 and over 83% during 2019-2022, which is the highest level up till now.
“The ministry has been releasing notifications for the last 2 decades”, said Yadav. “Though there is substantial utilization of fly ash, it is very poor in many TPPS. Now it remains to be seen how the TPPs will implement the said notification from this year.”
Avinash Parikh, secretary of the Fly Ash Brick Manufacturer Association, told (Down to Earth) DTE, “But the new notice has introduced a parameter stating the price of the fly ash bricks will be decided according to the Department Schedule Rates (DSR) of Central Public Works Department (CPWD), or Public Works Department (PWD) concerned. This will be a setback for fly ash bricks manufacturers. New notification discourages fly ash brick manufacturers as the DSR rates have not been revised in a long time.” “The provision for getting 20% free fly ash from TPPs for making bricks was made mandatory in 2016 has been done away with”, he added.
Price Cap of Fly Ash Bricks
As per the new notification, the price of fly ash bricks will not be more than the price mentioned in the schedule of rates as specified by PWD or CPWD. If not mentioned in the schedule of rates, then it cannot be higher than the price of alternative products. We already know this new MOEFCC notification mandates fly ash utilization by TPP but what is fly ash? Let us find out.
Fly Ash and its Components
It is a by-product of burning pulverized coal in thermal power plants. Low-grade coal has 30-45% and high-grade coal has 10-15% of ash content. TPPs mostly use low-grade coal, leading to huge fly ash. Irrespective of its source, fly ash exhibits cementitious properties in varying degrees based on the chemical and physical properties of fly ash and cement. Aluminum oxide (Al2O3), calcium oxide (CaO), ferric oxide (Fe2O3), and silicon dioxide (SiO2) are substantial amounts present in fly ash.