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Sunday, January 3, 1999

BILT with flyash 

Soumya Sarkar  
Every day, Delhi's thermal power plants spew out 125,000 tonnes of flyash, a major pollutant. This flyash is simply dumped in landfills, where they pose a serious hazard to the entire ecosystem and affect the lives of millions. When you consider that India generates a mindboggling 100 million tonnes of flyash every year, all the frantic efforts to transform it into some friendly product seem entirely justified.

Ballarpur Industries Ltd (BILT) has taken a significant initiative in this area by setting up an AAC (autoclaved aerated cement) plant near Palwal in Haryana, 72 kms from Delhi. AAC uses flyash as a major component in making a super light building material that the company claims is far better than conventional brick and RCC.

Says M G More, general manager (technical), AAC Division, ``BILT has been a pioneer in manufacturing AAC using flyash. This ecofriendly initiative also has a huge business potential, which has started being realised now.''

Vineet Chhabra, business head of the AAC Division,could not agree more. ``We have invested more than Rs 60 crore in a futuristic product. And due to a recent forward integration, where we have moved from manufacturing AAC blocks, prefab roofs and wall panels into building and turnkey projects as well, our business has soared,'' says he.

There are not too many players in this field yet. Pune-based Siporex India Ltd also manufactures AAC, but they use sand instead of flyash.

Not only is AAC as strong as brick and RCC, it has many other advantages as well (see box). One block of AAC is equivalent to 16 bricks, which means the mortar use comes down substantially. Says More, ``The unit cost of an AAC block works out to be only 10-15 per cent higher than 16 bricks, but when you factor in the reduced mortar use and the greater speed of construction, the saving in building costs could come down by as much as 50 per cent.''

A recent success story of the AAC division of BILT has been the turnkey project it under took for the Military Engineering Service at MayurVihar Vatika near Gurgaon. Apart from supplying the building material, BILT also worked as the builder of the 168 flats in the colony for defence personnel. BILT is also supplying materials to DLF and Ansals for projects like Ansal's Plaza in Delhi.

According to Chhabra, there is very little awareness about AAC, and people are still reluctant to change over from conventional methods. ``That is why we have moved into turnkey projects for organisations such as the MES and CPWD. This way we will have ample demonstration of the reliability of our material,'' he explains.

The long-term prospect of AAC as a widespread building material is immense, claim BILT officials. ``As the basic building material is prefabricated, there is a dramatic improvement in the speed of construction. This has a direct effect in costs and virtually eliminates escalation,'' More points out.

Adds Chhabra, ``We can practice rapid and safe housing by using AAC technology. As the idea catches on, we expect the demand toleapfrog.''

The mood is upbeat at the BILT AAC division. The company is aggressively marketing its brand -- Biltec. Chhabra says that right now, it is the growth in business that matters more than immediate profits.

By the turn of the century, India will need 78 million more houses. If we are to even attempt achieving this mammoth number, alternate and ecofriendly technology will have to play a major role. Cement from flyash is a step inthat direction.

Copyright © 1999 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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