Agartala: Tripura State Pollution Control Board’s efforts to introduce piped natural gas (PNG) in the brick kilns have evoked positive response from the brick field owners.

As many as 10 to 12 brick field owners have given their consent to convert the existing coal facilities into PNG-run units, Member Secretary of Tripura Pollution Control Board Bishu Karmakar told EastMojo on Thursday.

“All the brick fields that have primarily agreed to introduce gas as an alternative to coal are located in the Jirania and Majlishpur area of West Tripura district. We have targeted these kilns in the first place because they are very close to Agartala city and thus it would be easier for the gas supplying company – Tripura Natural Gas Corporation – to lay the gas pipelines,” Karmakar added.

Basant Kumar Agarwal, chairman of Tripura State Pollution Control Board

Abhijit Debnath, executive member of Tripura Brick Field Owners Association, said, “Gas-based brick units are not new in Tripura. In the past, there were many brick fields that used to be run on gas. But, owing to some issues the units could not sustain. We are looking forward to the proposals because there are strict guidelines laid down by the National Green Tribunal. If the suppliers can assure us of sustainable and uninterrupted gas supply in the work season, we are ready to introduce gas.”

According to Debnath, the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment has recently come up with some strict guidelines and all the brick fields should have the necessary clearance from the ministry for operation. Some regulations related to air pollution also came into effect lately, which need to be followed. This is how gas-based units may help us in a big way, he added.

“All the brick field owners have been asked to procure an environmental certificate from the National Green Tribunal. For a long time, people violated the rules as the regulatory bodies did not bother much. But, things have changed and some of the brick field owners have been penalised for violations as well. Now, NGT has said that without an EC certificate no other papers will be issued. A number of brick fields had received notices from the NGT,” Debnath told EastMojo.

On the coal issue, he said, “The issue of the coal crisis had been addressed by the government very carefully. In recent times, we are receiving coal from Meghalaya as well and the government has also asked the brick field owners to send their required quantity. This coal will be transported from the government coal mines.”

Debnath said the total number of brick fields in Tripura stands at over 300, of which 207 are still active.

On being asked whether alternative gas will be beneficial for them, he said, “Everything is now in the planning stage. The TNGCL, GAIL India and other stakeholders involved in the whole process should come up with full clarity. What would be the rate of the gas per unit and in what quantity they can afford to give. After all these factors are sorted out, we can say whether gas will be cost-effective or our production cost is going to increase due to the introduction of a new fuel system.”

Basant Kumar Agarwal, chairman of Tripura State Pollution Control Board, said, “The Central Pollution Control Board recently rolled out new guidelines for brick fields, underlining the issue of converting them into gas-run facilities. We have been trying to convince the industry owners towards gas for some time and when it reached us in the form of a guideline, we started our efforts in a more concerted way. TNGCL has agreed to supply gas to around 60 brick fields located in the Jirania area.”

“All the owners had been asked to submit their demands based on their production value so that TNGCL can calculate the amount of gas they need to supply in the brick field cluster of Jirania. Some brick field owners have already submitted their detailed report in this regard,” Agarwal told EastMojo.      

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