An advocate of natural farming methods for more than a decade, Kanchipuram-based Gandhi Gopalakrishnan was shocked to see lush mango farmland turning infertile by the dumping of rice hull ash (RHA). “The farmers are deceived by claims that RHA helps the fertility of the soil, when the contrary is true,” he says. The high pH content (8 per cent) of rice hull ash spells doom for the soil (ideally soil pH should remain between 6.5-7.5 per cent). “In a paddy-growing and processing district like Kanchipuram, I thought of reducing the ecological damage caused by carbon-rich RHA,” says Gopalakrishnan.
The solution he offered has multiple benefits: convert the hazardous RHA into bricks, preventing it from spoiling the environment. It reduces the usage of bricks made from top soil, and saves trees too, since mud bricks are solidified by burning with wood. Gopalakrishnan leased out a brick factory, bought a worn-out mosaic machine and started manufacturing RHA bricks, all at a cost of Rs 1 lakh.
The formula is simple: mix RHA with sand, quarry dust and a bit of cement, and an eco-friendly hollow brick is born. In the last two years, NEEADS has manufactured more than 30,000 such bricks. Now they are sold at Rs 3.50 per brick, the same price as a mud brick. “The manufacturing is on a small scale. If we expand the facilities and produce on a mass scale, the price will come down,” says Gopalakrishnan.
Source: Ashes to Bricks