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No fly ash for construction on Yamuna riverbed,DDA told

The Lieutenant-Governor’s Office has directed the Delhi Development Authority to stop dumping fly ash on the Yamuna floodplain with immediate effect.

Written by Neha Sinha | New Delhi |
July 18, 2009 12:21:24 am

The Lieutenant-Governor’s Office has directed the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to stop dumping fly ash on the Yamuna floodplain with immediate effect. Newsline had reported how the DDA was using toxic fly ash to level the Yamuna floodplain at the site of a flyover coming up in front of the Commonwealth Games Village.

A Government of India notification on fly ash — a byproduct of thermal power production – makes a case for the use of fly ash at construction sites. However,fly ash,which contains several trace metals,can severely contaminate water sources as well as groundwater. The notification is,however,silent on the use of fly ash on river beds.

On November 23,2007,the L-G,who also chairs the Prime Minister-appointed Yamuna River Development Authority,sent a letter specifying a ban on the use of toxic fly ash on the Yamuna floodplain. This was a response to concerns raised by environmentalists regarding the Yamuna floodplain,where the water table is high and contamination can thus reach the groundwater or even the river channel more easily than at other places. The problem is heightened during rainfall.

The letter was at that time directed to the Delhi Metro,which was using fly ash for the construction of the Yamuna depot,with copies sent to the DDA which was building the Games village. But the violations are now back in place. Last week,Newsline visited the spot to find large amounts of fly ash being used at the site for construction of the flyover in front of the Games Village.

Raj Niwas has now instructed the DDA to stop using fly ash with immediate effect. “The DDA has been told to immediately stop using fly ash on the Yamuna riverbed. They have also been instructed to remove as much fly ash as is possible,” Ranjan Mukherjee,Officer on Special Duty to the L-G,said.

The DDA,meanwhile,admits to using fly ash. “We have been following the norm of using fly ash at construction sites. At this particular site,we have used fly ash after jacketing it with earth. However,if the L-G’s office so instructs,we will cease to use fly ash,” DDA spokesperson Neemo Dhar said.

Experts say fly ash should be used with extreme caution,and never on a riverbed. “Fly ash is a toxic material. If used for landfilling,it should be used only after casing and topping with concrete. It should never be used near a water source as it can contaminate the water easily. At the Yamuna floodplain,water is found at a depth of merely 16 feet. Once groundwater is contaminated,there is no way to purify it. Thermal power plant by-products are extremely unhealthy for humans. At the IP power station,60 per cent of workers were found to be suffering from lung ailments,” Dr Amit Love,a fly ash specialist,said.

“In 2007,the Ministry of Environment and Forests had specifically asked for only sand to be used for filling at the Commonwealth Games Village site. The fact that the Village is coming up on the Yamuna floodplain is itself regrettable,but the DDA should at least follow basic environmental norms,” Manoj Misra from NGO Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan said.

It is,however,likely that environmental violations might continue on the floodplain till the area is given legal sanctity. Currently,there is no demarcation of the geographical floodplain on the ground.

Effects of fly ash
Fly ash,a grey-coloured ash created from thermal power production,is a toxic material typically containing arsenic,cadmium and lead. Cadmium is carcinogenic. Even one part per million of cadmium in living tissue of plants and animals may cause serious damage. Fly ash also negatively alters the DNA of plants. Plants have been found to undergo anatomical changes when grown on fly ash.

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