BENGALURU: Karnataka is in a spot over the National Green Tribunal (NGT) direction to the states to prepare a plan on disposing of fly ash generated by thermal power plants. The state produces a total of 41 lakh metric tonnes of fly ash every year and is now in a spot because the only way of disposing of this huge amount of fly ash is through burying it in ponds.
On January 9, a bench comprising acting Chairperson Justice U D Salvi and expert member Nagin Nanda directed the states to submit a comprehensive plan to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) in four weeks (by February 6) and asked the ministry to submit the documents to it before the next date of hearing.
The tribunal said that every state and Union Territory was under obligation to implement the notifications issued by the ministry from time to time and dispose of the ash produced by power plants in an environment-friendly manner.
Fly ash is a coal combustion product that is composed of fine particles of fuel driven out of coal-fired boilers. It is generally captured by electrostatic precipitators or other particle filtration equipment before reaching the chimneys. As it is composed of fine particles, fly ash can pose severe respiratory problems if not disposed of scientifically.
But most states in the country do not have a scientific and environment-friendly manner to dispose of this captured fly ash.
Environmentalist A N Yellappa Reddy said that fly ash contains heavy metals like chromium, lead, mercury and other metals which eventually gets mixed up in the underground water. Also, fine dust of fly ash gets mixed in the air. Through air and water, these heavy metals enter human body causing many health implications including cancer, liver problems and even mental disabilities in newborns.
Karnataka Power Corporation Limited (KPCL) managing director Kumar Naik told The New Indian Express that they have three ash ponds, two at Raichur and one at Ballari. “These are special ponds designed to dispose of fly ash. It’s a traditional method, but not a good practice. Each pond takes fly ash for years together. Once it is filled, we go for new ones. But for the past few years, we are sending fly ash to brick factories and cement industries,” he said.
Another senior KPCL official, on condition of anonymity, said although they have sufficient fly ash to supply many industries through trucks and trains, not many are taking it. “The distance from the power generating units to the cement and brick units is huge. They fear escalating costs incurred from transportation. We supply fly ash for `200-250 per tonne,’’ he said.
At present, there are 13 thermal power generating units in Karnataka, of which eight are at Raichur Thermal Power Station, three at Bellari Themral Power Station and two at Yermarus Thermal Power Station (YTPS). These units produces on an average 41 lakh metric tonnes of fly ash every year.
Karnataka Power Corporation Limited (KPCL) generates on an average 220-240 million units a day from various forms — thermal, hydro, solar and wind.