The Madras High Court has directed the State government to constitute Dispute Settlement Committees, as stipulated by the Centre, in thermal power plants at Ennore, North Chennai, Mettur and Tuticorin for resolving differences over free allocation of fly ash to manufacturers of bricks, blocks and other construction materials.

A Division Bench, comprising the Acting Chief Justice Elipe Dharma Rao and Justice K.K. Sasidharan, passed the orders while disposing of a batch of writ petitions filed by the Tamil Nadu Fly Ash Bricks and Blocks Manufacturers Association and others.

They had alleged that they were not being allotted 20 per cent of the fly ash generated in the four power plants as ordered by the Centre.

The judges made it clear that every Dispute Settlement Committee should comprise the General Manager of the thermal power plant concerned and a representative of the fly ash brick manufacturers association.

If these committees were unable to resolve a dispute, it should be referred to the State Level Monitoring Committee as expeditiously as possible.

Writing the judgment, Mr. Justice Sasidharan pointed out that the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests had issued a notification on November 6, 2008 to provide at least 20 per cent of Electrostatic Precipitator (ESP) fly ash free of cost to brick manufacturers to restrict excavation of top soil for manufacturing clay bricks.

“The notification issued by the Ministry was not with a purpose to help the manufacture of fly ash bricks, blocks and tiles. It was made primarily in the interest of environment. Therefore, the (State) government as well as the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB) and their thermal power plants are expected to follow the notification in all its seriousness,” the judgment read.

Referring to allegations that the TNEB and the power plants were selling all the fly ash to exporters, the Bench said: “Their commercial interest should not come in the way of fulfilling the social objective of allotting 20 per cent of the dry ESP flay ash free of charge to the units manufacturing fly ash or clay fly ash bricks, blocks and tiles on priority basis over other users.”