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Half-baked initiative?

By GovernanceToday
In Issue 9
June 24, 2016

Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board’s recent initiative to curb air pollution from brick kilns is unlikely to succeed

brick-kilns-air-pollutionRamesh Kumar Raja          _

A t a time when an assortment of measures is being taken to rein in air pollution in the national capital, Delhi and its adjoining  areas which constitute the national capital region (NCR), the Uttar Pradesh government’s endeavor to reduce pollution from brick kilns seems a tad ill baked. To tackle the menace of air pollution taking place because of the smoke belched out by brick kilns, the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) has issued a notice to brick entrepreneurs of Ghaziabad, Gautam Budh Nagar and Hapur. The notice directs brick kilns in these three districts to convert from natural draft kilns to induced draft kilns in 90 days. The step has been ostensibly taken to reduce air pollution from brick kiln sources, to improve the air quality in Delhi and NCR.

It is estimated that the brick kiln sector is the fourth largest contributor to PM10 emissions in the national capital region after transport, road dust and thermal power plants. While brick manufacturing has been banned in Delhi, it has thrived in areas surrounding the capital; the NCR’s massive thrust on construction has given it the boost. There are around 700 brick kilns in the three districts of Ghaziabad, Gautam Budh Nagar and Hapur. Most of these kilns are natural draft Bulls Trench Kilns. There are different types of brick making technologies which vary in terms of bricks arrangement, feeding of fuel and air flow. The basic difference between a natural draft and induced draft kiln is that whereas in natural draft brick kilns, air flow for distribution of heat is done by a chimney whereas in induced draft brick kilns, the air flow is controlled by a fan.

“The UPPCB has rightly identified brick kiln as an important source of air pollution,” says Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). “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 kiln would adopt a short cut by fitting a dummy fan which will never run.”

“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,” adds Bhushan. In addition, the notification should also include a change-over to fly ash brick manufacturing, point out the CSE researcher.

Experiences from other states suggest that pollution reduction from kilns working on induced draft has not been satisfactory. Worse still, in view of erratic power supply, kiln owners will have to run a diesel generator set to operate the fan if they shift to induced draft kilns, which will add to the pollution.

Fly ash bus missed

uppcb-notification-missesThe UPPCB notification also misses the opportunity to move brick kiln operators of NCR to fly ash brick making. 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 about 30 per cent of PM10 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 surrounding regions – these bricks have a potential to utilise over 2 million tonnes of fly ash.

There is adequate technical understanding and experience available in the country today 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 as well as modernise the brick industry,” says Bhushan. The UPPCB needs to come up with a clear technological roadmap for the brick sector, to effectively contribute towards curbing air pollution.

Experts recommend that the notification should be amended – it should state that the existing natural draft Bulls Trench Kiln should be replaced with cleaner technologies such as natural or induced draft Zig-Zag Kiln, VSBK, Hoffman or Tunnel Kiln. Other details such as arrangement of bricks, air flow and fuel feeding mechanism should be clearly mentioned. In addition, the notification should also encourage a change-over to fly ash brick manufacturing.

The State Pollution Control Boards of Haryana and Rajasthan too need to identify brick kilns as an important source of air pollution and direct them to switch to cleaner technologies.

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