Ahead of the upcoming November-January smog season, the Punjab government has ordered the province-wide closure of all old technology brick kilns from November 1 to December 20. Brick kilns manufacture bricks used in the construction of domestic and commercial buildings and most of the at least 5,000 kilns operating in Punjab – like those in the rest of the country – are the Fixed Chimney Bull’s Trench Kiln (FCBTK) type which not only uses more energy but also harms the environment and human health through its smog-causing emissions. Only the safer zigzag technology kilns will be allowed to operate in the province during the above-mentioned period.
The Punjab government is certainly on the right track in imposing the ban and in urging kiln owners to switch to zig zag technology which, besides reducing emissions considerably, also uses 40% less coal and offers 90% top quality bricks compared with just 70% obtained through FCBTK. But it is also important for our planners to consider other effective modern technologies that may offer better brick production and environmental protection. Perhaps foremost among them is the Vertical Shaft Brick Kiln (VSBK) which is more environment-friendly, requires less space and fuel, has a shorter production cycle and operates year-round. Another option is the Tunnel Kiln which is also more environment-friendly, has the least manpower requirements, operates year-round and can produce bricks of varying sizes.
Additionally, certain measures need to be taken to improve brick manufacturing in the country. One is to recognise brick making, currently an unregulated and undocumented industry, as a formal production sector and draft legislation to improve it. The other, say experts, is to train a core group of engineers and technicians as master trainers to train kiln workers and disseminate good practices among them.
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