The Uttar Pradesh government’s effort to reduce air pollution from brick kilns has backfired. Earlier, the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) had directed the brick kiln owners of Ghaziabad, Gautam Budh Nagar and Hapur to upgrade their technology from natural draft brick kilns to induced draft brick kilns within 90 days.
The step was taken to reduce air pollution from brick kilns and to improve the air quality of Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR).
It is estimated that the brick kiln sector is the fourth largest contributor to PM 10 (particulate matter) emissions in the NCR region after transportation, road dust and thermal power plants.
While brick manufacturing has been banned in Delhi, it thrives on in the fringe areas of the capital and NCR’s massive thrust on housing construction has boosted it.
There are around 700 brick kilns in the three districts of Ghaziabad, Gautam Budh Nagar and Hapur. Most of these kilns follow the natural draft Bull’s Trench Kiln technology.
“The UPPCB has rightly identified brick kiln(s) as an important source of air pollution,” Chandra Bhushan, the deputy director general of Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) said.
“However the technological solution suggested—changing over from natural draft to induced draft—is inadequate and will not lead to reduction in pollution. It is very likely that the majority of the kilns would adopt a short cut by fitting a dummy fan which will never run.”
In induced kilns, the movement of air is managed with the help of a fan and the pressure drop is higher than that found in the natural draft.
It is believed that induced kilns operate faster, and thus reduce coal consumption. But to control the air flow and achieve proper brick firing, the brick setting in the kilns is denser than natural draft kilns.
“The notification should have also addressed issues such as arrangement of bricks, fuel-feeding mechanisms and air flow which are very important factors to ensure pollution reduction,” Bhushan added.
CSE researchers pointed out that the notification should have included a transition to fly ash brick manufacturing.
Experiences from other states suggest that pollution reduction from kilns working on induced draft technology has not been satisfactory. Worse still, in view of erratic power supply, kiln owners will have to run a diesel generator to operate the fan if they shift to induced draft kilns. This will add to pollution.
Fly ash brick manufacturing
The UPPCB notification missed out on the opportunity to urge brick kiln operators of NCR to shift to fly ash brick manufacturing, CSE feels.
Power plants in and around Delhi have huge stocks of unutilised ash in their ponds which is also one of the major contributors to air pollution in Delhi-NCR.
During summer, coal and fly ash contribute to about 30 per cent of PM 10 emissions. A CSE analysis shows that the pond ash availability in Dadri and Badarpur is around 12 and 12.5 million tonnes respectively. Ghaziabad, Gautam Budh Nagar and Hapur together supply nearly two billion bricks to New Delhi and the surrounding areas. Brick kilns in these three districts have the potential to utilise over 2 million tonnes of fly ash.
There is adequate technical understanding and expertise available in the country to reduce pollution from the brick kiln industry. “The UPPCB and the brick kilns owners can use these to make the right technological choices that will help in reducing air pollution in the NCR region as well as modernise the brick industry,” Bhushan said.
The UPPCB needs to come up with a clear technological roadmap for the brick sector to effectively contribute towards curbing air pollution.
CSE recommends that the notification should be suitably amended and should state that the existing natural draft Bull’s Trench Kiln technology should be replaced with cleaner technologies such as natural or induced draft Zig-Zag Kiln, VSBK, Hoffman and Tunnel Kiln.
Other factors such as arrangement of bricks, air flow and fuel-feeding mechanism should also be clearly mentioned by the UPPCB. The notification should also encourage a shift to fly ash brick manufacturing.
The pollution control boards of Haryana and Rajasthan should also identify brick kilns as an important source of air pollution and direct them to switch to cleaner technologies, CSE feels.