Seven brick kilns operating near airport

Zahid Gishkori May 12, 2010

ISLAMABAD: Seven brick kilns situated near the Benazir Bhutto International Airport (BBIA) are causing pollution and their combined smoke is hindering the visibility of airplanes attempting to land.

There were 12 brick kilns in the Red Zone and were ordered to shut down on March 17, last year by the Pakistan Environment Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) under Environment Protection Orders (EPOs). However, seven of them are still functional. Pak-EPA has been setting deadlines after deadlines for these kilns to shut them down throughout the year. The fourth deadline expired on April 22. Director General Pak-EPA Asif Shujja Khan said his organisation was trying to close the remaining brick kilns down.

“We are going to set a (new) deadline for the owners of (the remaining) seven brick kilns (to shut down operations) next week,” he said. Mr Khan said his organisation was trying to get all of the 90 brick kilns operating in Islamabad to reduce their emissions. “Switzerland has provided (us with) Rs2.80million to introduce modern technology for controlling pollution,” he said. “(Eventually) all 90 brick kilns located in Islamabad will be asked to (switch to the) Swiss technology for smoke reduction,” he added.

“30 brick kilns in the orange zone (within Islamabad Capital Territory) will be shut down by 2012 and 50 more brick kilns (outside Islamabad) will be shut down by 2015,” Khan added. The brick kilns’ owners are not willing to go without a fight. Muhammad Akram, Secretary Brick Kilns Owners Association, told The Express Tribune that his organisation had challenged the EPOs with the Environment Protection Tribunal in Lahore. Meanwhile, he added that the kiln owners are demanding compensation for shutting their units down.

“They are also asking (Capital Development Authority) to allot them land for relocation,” he added. Capital Development Authority (CDA) has rejected these demands. “The brick kiln owners will (have to) purchase lands (themselves),” said Ghulam Sarwar Sandhu, Director CDA Urban Planning. Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Spokesperson, when contacted, told The Express Tribune that they had been pursuing the matter for a while now.

“The brick kilns’ owners were unable to control pollution in the area, (so) we requested Pak-EPA to close down the seven brick kilns falling in the Red Zone (near BBIA) within a month,” Shah said. CAA has been requesting the shutdown of kilns near BBIA since 2008. The latest request they sent to Pak-EPA was in the first week of May 2010. Amir Ahmad, a shopkeeper in the vicinity of the airport, said both the airport and the kilns were having a bad effect on the people living nearby. “Their (the brick kilns’) smoke is very injurious to health,” he said, adding, “The noise from airplanes is also causing noise pollution.”

Traditionally, coal is used as a fuel in brick kilns. During the baking process, a brick kiln releases a number of poisonous chemicals including carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide and various nitrogen oxides. The smoke released from these kilns also contains particulate matter, which is considered an air pollutant.

Published in the Express Tribune, May 12th, 2010.

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