Greener options being probed for SilverLine

To minimise impact on ecology, K-Rail to explore fly ash, reusing of mud and debris

With environmental activists expressing concern about the need to source aggregate (crushed quarry granite) and mud in bulk for the 530-km-long SilverLine semi-high-speed-rail project, K-Rail officials and experts who have been roped in to study the projectโ€™s environmental impact are learnt to be exploring means to mitigate concerns and to minimise damage to the environment, by probing alternative raw materials like fly ash.

Efforts are on to reuse mud that would be levelled all through the alignment for the rail corridorโ€™s embankment to lessen the need to mine mud afresh. There are also alternatives like blending fly ash with mud in the right proportion and using this to fill the embankment. The Centre has laid out norms for this, official sources said.

Fly ash as an alternative

โ€˜Fly ash, a byproduct from thermal power plants, can also be used for concreting, thus minimising reliance on cement and aggregate. Aggregate from quarries can be sourced from other States or even other countries. All possible means are being explored to reduce the environmental impact of project. The rapid-environmental impact assessment (rapid-EIA) report is over, covering a single season. A comprehensive report will be readied, covering all four seasons of the year. It will detail the alternative raw materials that can be used,โ€ they added.

Firmโ€™s suggestions

Moreover, the firm which would execute the project would be able to suggest environment-friendly alternatives, based on engineering and environmental principles. For example, aggregate could be brought in bulk by train from neighbouring States, for the 10.50-m-wide viaduct and for use as ballast on tracks.

โ€œA 16-member, multi-disciplinary team which prepared a rapid-EIA report did studies on the soil quality, land use, watershed management, flood discharge, seismicity, landslide and coastal hazards,โ€ said T.R. Vinod, Programme Director of Centre for Environment and Development, Thiruvananthapuram, which did the rapid-EIA study.

Zero-waste project

โ€œA comprehensive EIA study will shed light on locales where aggregate can be sourced and how to transport it to work sites, while causing least pollution. Construction debris, including those of buildings that would be acquired for the project too can be reused, thus ensuring that SilverLine is a zero-waste project,โ€ he added.

The former head of International Governance Cell of the U.N., John Samuel, had cautioned against large-scale quarrying in Kerala, considering its fallout on ecologically fragile areas in the State.

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