Fly Ash Bricks: Brick production using fly-ash from thermal power plants in India

As the second most populated country in the world, urbanization in India is taking place at a high rate. As a result, the country is dealing with a great housing shortage. Twenty five per cent of the population do not have dwellings of their own, accounting for a shortage of almost sixty million units. Hence, building constructions play a vital role to meet such demand. However, in India construction of building is responsible for approximately twenty two per cent of the national emissions, with the main culprits being the production of bricks and cement apart from the construction processes itself.

The housing shortage situation has forced India to increase the bricks and cement production. The procedure of conventional brick production involves topsoil removal from fertile land at the end of every growing season. The consequences of the activities are releasing a large amount of carbon, degrading the soil, and also threatening the farmers from losing their fertile land.

These challenging issues are being addressed in India by an inspiring green business initiative, spearheaded by Development Alternatives (DA), a research Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) and social enterprise hybrid. This new approach for brick production uses fly ash, a by-product from thermal power plants, instead of topsoil removal from a fertile productive land.

Three hundred million tonnes of fly ash are produced a year in India, causing severe respiratory problems to Indian population. Furthermore, power plant operators face significant costs for disposal of fly ash. Alternative brick production and sale of bricks with low carbon content creates a mutual win-win situation for both power plant operators, as it helps cutting down costs related to ash waste disposal, and local communities, as less environmental damage occurs. The fly-ash brick requires relatively simple technologies for production, is inexpensive, and overall more resilient than traditional bricks.