New use for fly ash

West Bengal's department of environment and forests has decided to use fly ash generated by thermal power plants and industrial boilers using coal as soil conditioners, and convert old ash ponds into agricultural land. These schemes are a part of the masterplan drawn up by the department to deal with the ash, which has been accumulating at the rate of 100 tonnes per year. According to figures compiled by the state government, actual generation of ash from coal fired boilers was 86.6 lakh tonne in 1992-93 and 97 lakh tonne in 1993-94. Sources in the department feel that the 2 measures are the most environment-friendly ways of using fly ash in the Gangetic plains of West Bengal.

The department decided to go ahead with its plans after a pilot study undertaken near Bakreswar in Birbhum district found that adding fly ash increased the water retention capacity of the land as well as the heavy metal content of the soil, which is beneficial to crops. The environment and forests department has already tied up with the department of agriculture and some institutes in the state to find ways of using the ash to benefit agriculture.