Regulating pollution: Punjab’s brick kilns face a tight deadline

Owners asked to adopt environment-friendly production techniques

Asif Mehmood June 08, 2020

LAHORE: Already struggling for their survival, Punjab’s traditional brick makers will soon have to invest in environment-friendly production technologies.

Identified as a major source of pollution, brick kilns across the province were given until December 31, 2020, to adopt the zig-zag high draught technology, which is considered cleaner and more efficient.

Brick kilns in the province already appear to be cash strapped due to the limited production this year.

“Over the past few months, brick kilns across the province have remained shut. First, due to the smog, then due to the rains and now due to the lack of economic activity,” claimed Mehr Abdul Haq, secretary-general of the Kiln Owners Association.

Ignoring the financial woes, that appear to be compounded by the Covid-19 lockdown, the government knocked on the door, warning each of the kilns in the province, to comply with the orders to embrace the environment-friendly production or face closure.

According to details available with The Express Tribune, so far, only 7% of the total kilns in the province have switched to the zig-zag technology.  While the association of kiln owners in the province claims more than 800 units have adopted the new technology, the environment department’s registers show only 620 out of the 11,000 kilns have modified the way they produce bricks.

“Chief minister ordered all brick kilns to use the environment-friendly technology. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the implementation might face some delays,” said Naseemur Rehman, head of the provincial Environment Protection Department in Punjab.

Over the past two months, brick kilns across Punjab have remained closed due to the Covid-19 health crisis.  The super spreader forced a complete shutdown of ongoing construction work across the province.

Even as the country gradually reopens, brick kilns will not be able to resume production without complying with the government’s orders.

“Without production, owners are facing a financial crisis,” said Mehr Abdul Haq, secretary-general of the brick kiln owners association of Pakistan.

To switch to the zig-zag technology, Haq said, the government promised to provide financial assistance.  “We have not received any support from the government,” he claimed.

“The Ehsas program also ignored the brick kilns and the labour that works here,” Haq added. With limited financial support from the government, owners of brick kilns, believe it will not be easy for them to switch to the costly environment-friendly production.

Rana Abdul Jabbar, who operates a traditional kiln in the Phool Nagar area, said he invested 15 to 20 lacs to switch to the zig-zag technology.

Jabbar claims the new technology has improved the quality of bricks and increased production.

Responsible for pollution

Kilns across Punjab use coal as fuel, which triggers the deadly smog each year in the province.  An increase in pollution levels has pushed Punjab higher on the list of most polluted places on earth.

The government, experts believe, appears to be struggling to regulate the deteriorating quality of air.  Subsequently, the province had no option but to push brick kilns to switch to environment-friendly production.

Brick kilns in Punjab, environmental experts believe, are a major source of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. “They need to use cost-effective technologies to reduce emissions,” said one expert.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 8th, 2020.




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