The Telegraph
Friday , January 17 , 2014
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City low on ‘green’ bricks

Calcutta lags behind other metros in the use of environment-friendly fly ash bricks despite a Supreme Court-ratified rule that all constructions within 100km of a thermal power plant must switch to this material.

The apex court had upheld the Union environment and forest ministry’s 2009 order barring the use of bricks made from topsoil in areas near coal-fired power plants that produce fly ash as a by-product. It was an effort to stop rampant destruction of the fertile topsoil.

The city’s choice remains the clay bricks cooked red in kilns, though almost the entire state falls within the fly ash directive.

Production of these bricks annually damages the topsoil of an area thrice the size of the abandoned Tata plant in Singur, environmentalists say.

Though annually 50 billion fly ash bricks are manufactured in the country, Bengal’s contribution is less than a billion. “The state PWD had issued a directive on fly ash bricks but to little avail,” alleges Surojit Basu, chairman of state fly ash brick manufacturers’ association.

“The central government order is hardly implemented but other metros fair better than Calcutta,” said fly ash expert Anjan K. Chatterjee on Thursday.

N. Kalidas, the director of the Institute for Solid Waste Research & Ecological Balance, said: “While most states are trying to encourage fly ash through incentives, the Bengal government still does not have a clear policy.”

Environmentalists alleged that of nearly 15,000 brickfields in Bengal, nearly 50 per cent were operating illegally. An estimate shows that nearly 3,250 acres of fertile land is destroyed in Bengal every year by these brickfields.

Harsh Patodia, the president of the builders’ body Credai, observed about half the real estate projects in the city use fly ash bricks in varying proportions.

Sushil Mohta, a major builder in the city, agreed: “It’s picking up. Fly ash brick technology has improved and there are environmental issues as well.”