Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has recognised the brick production industry as a highly resource and energy intensive and polluting industry owing to prevalence of obsolete production technologies. While, the clusters are the source of local air pollution affecting local population, agriculture and vegetation; at a global scale they also contribute to climate change.
The brick industry competes for resources with other sectors, which poses a significant challenge to the sector. Coal is one such resource that is required for the power, steel and other crucial sectors. Also, top soil or land which could be used for agriculture. The traditional kiln unit itself occupies considerable land area and is subjected to high temperature making it unfit for agricultural activities (after the site is abandoned). The fast depletion of arable land thus caused due to brick making is a matter of concern to India regarding food security.
With an average consumption of 18 tonnes of coal per 100,000 bricks, the brick sector consumes about 24 million tonnes of coal per year which is about 8 % of the total coal consumption of the country (third largest consumer after power and steel sector). In addition, it also consumes several million tonnes of biomass fuels.
The share of energy in total cost of brick production is 35-50 %.
The large coal consumption of the brick industry is the cause of significant air pollution in terms of carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and suspended particulate matter (SPM). The large amounts of coal used for brick firing also leave behind bottom ash as residue. The air pollution and bottom ash generated cause considerable health problems, especially related to respiratory health, while also causing damage to property and crops.
The Supreme Court of India issued a directive for discontinuing the movable chimney kilns and for all brick kilns to conform to new environmental norms. While this signalled a move in the right direction, due to lax monitoring mechanisms such kilns continue to function and flout environmental regulations. Additionally, while kilns with higher production levels and capital have the option to changeover to fixed chimney type BTKs, the small and medium scale brick entrepreneurs are
confronted with environmental regulation without having financially viable options
to switch and thus continue to run polluting kilns.