Bhubaneswar: Coal-rich Odisha may have drawn huge investments in the electricity sector to emerge as a powerhouse of India but the state has been unsuccessful in utilising the fly ash produced in thermal power plants which has led to massive air and water pollution.
While Odisha produces 24.52 million tonnes of fly ash from nine coal-fired power plants with an installed capacity of 8,487 MW, the quantity of fly ash will reach a staggering 92.5 million tonnes if all the proposed 31 power plants, with a total installed capacity of 53,721 MW, turn operational in the coming years, Energy Minister Pranab Prakash Das has told the state assembly.
Independent power producers (IPPs) have invested Rs.32,991 crore on proposed coal-fired projects after entering into memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with the state government, but when it comes to fly ash management, thermal power companies have failed to utilise it.
The state has entered into MoUs with 28 power companies.
"As per information furnished by the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB), the net accumulation of fly ash during 2005-06 to 2008-09 was 36.99 million tonnes which further increased by another 52.21 million tonnes during 2009-10 to 2013-14, resulting in total accumulation of fly ash to 89.2 million tonnes," the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) said in a report.
"Though utilisation of fly ash has increased from 43.93 percent to 61 percent during 2009-10 to 2013-14, the average yearly accumulation of fly ash remained unchanged (ranging between 9.44 million tonnes to 10.78 million tonnes)," said the report.
The government auditor said most of the power plants have failed to utilise 100 percent fly ash as per guidelines issued by the central government.
Most of the power plants are situated in critically polluted areas in Angul-Talcher and Ib Valley-Jharsuguda - both among the 43 critically polluted areas in the country.
DK Behera, an environmental scientist with the SPCB, told IANS that the state government has made mandatory the use of fly ash bricks in all government buildings located within a radius of 100 km of fly ash generating units.
He said that while fly ash was being used for brick-making and road construction, the government has decided to engage the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bhubaneswar and the National Institute of Technology (NIT), Rourkela, for a research report on utilisation of fly ash in other sectors.
Behera said the institutes would come out with solutions to use fly ash in other areas such as pre-fabricated roofs, asbestos sheets and corrugated tiles.