Why are fly ash brick manufacturers in a tough spot?

Though the government has stressed on increasing fly ash utilisation in the country, manufacturers allege that a situation of scarcity is being created by thermal power plants

By Shagun
Published: Monday 01 April 2019

Even as the new fly ash draft notification, released in February 2019, makes it mandatory for all red clay bricks located within 300 kilometres of a thermal power plant to convert into fly ash bricks, the existing fly ash brick manufacturers are facing a tough time to procure adequate fly ash for their plants.

Though the government has stressed time and again on increasing fly ash utilisation in the country, the manufacturers allege that a situation of "scarcity" is being created by thermal power plants.

Signalling a frustration among fly ash brick manufacturers, around 100 units have stopped work in the last six months in Uttar Pradesh alone.

“They all are waiting for adequate supply to resume their operations,” said Subesh Singh Bhati, president, Fly ash Bricks Manufacturers Association (FBMA).

Meanwhile, around 100 fly ash brick manufacturers in Haryana get only 5 per cent of fly ash from thermal power plants located within 300 km, as opposed to at least 20 per cent mandated by a 2008 notification by Ministry of Environment and Forest.

Ajit Singh’s bricks manufacturing plant in Hisar in Haryana has a requirement of 1,600-1,800 tonne fly ash per month, but is allotted only 400 tonnes from Rajiv Gandhi Thermal Power Station in Khedar, on a monthly average.

 Fly ash is a by-product of coal after it is burnt at thermal power plants, and is usually dumped at the site or ponds, resulting in depletion of top soil, groundwater deterioration and air pollution. There has been a significant push for promoting the utilisation of fly ash in brick manufacturing and other construction activity.

“There is a lot of uncertainty. People like me have set up fly ash brick manufacturing units but we keep waiting for ash from thermal power plants. There are times when we don’t get delivery for 10 days at a stretch,” said Vijay Gupta, who procures fly ash from Dadri Thermal power plant for his unit in Greater Noida.

His unit has a capacity of making 40,000-50,000 fly ash bricks per month but is currently manufacturing only 20,000-25,000 bricks.

“On one hand, the PMO (prime minister’s office) is stressing on increasing fly ash utilisation and has come up with a new ruling that all red clay brick manufacturers should shift to fly ash, but even the existing ones are not given the required quantity. How will this industry see a boost if this situation continues?” asks Gupta.  

The Centre had put up a draft notification on February 25, 2019, stating, “No new red clay brick kilns shall be installed and operated within 300 km from a coal or lignite based thermal power plant after publication of this notification. The existing red clay brick kilns located within 300 km shall be converted into fly ash-based bricks or blocks or tiles manufacturing unit within one year from the date of publication of this notification. In order to encourage the conversion, Thermal Power Plants (TPPs) should provide fly ash at the rate of Re 1 per tonne and bear the full transportation cost up to 300 km to such units.”

Reasons of “shortage” range from fly ash being sold at higher rates to cement manufacturers to halt in supply during inspections or visits at thermal power plants, and giving priority to road or other project contractors owing to “election compulsions”.

“Last few months have seen a lot of project inaugurations by governments due to upcoming elections. The thermal plants stop our supply as per their whims,” alleged Gupta.

Another manufacturer, who did not wish to be named, said that he procures fly ash from Badarpur power plant and even though there is a good quantity of ash dumped at the site of the plant, he did not receive any for at least three months.

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