Improving worker skills to transform India’s brick sector

In recent years India’s central and the state governments have started controlling air pollution from brick kilns. In 2016, several State Pollution Control Boards ordered brick kilns in their jurisdiction to shift from Fixed Chimney Bull’s Trench kilns to Zigzag kiln technology. More recently India’s Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change launched the National Clean Air Programme, which directs all brick kilns to shift to Zigzag kiln technology. As a result, around 8,000 kilns have converted to Zigzag technology in the last 4 years.

Two studies, by Greentech Knowledge Solutions and the Centre for Science and Environment, looked at the effectiveness of converting kilns in Bihar and the National Capital Region. Both studies concluded that the performance of Zigzag kilns and the effectiveness of kiln conversions are influenced by three parameters: kiln design, quality of construction, and kiln operation and skill of operators. In Bihar 43% of the surveyed kilns were unable to realize the full benefits of conversion due to the lack of trained workers to construct and operate zigzag kilns.

There are approximately 50,000 Fixed Chimney Bull’s Trench kilns in India that need to convert to Zigzag kiln technology over the next 3 years. The total number of workers need to operate the converted kilns is estimated to exceed 1 million. A massive training initiative is therefore needed to train these many workers over a limited period of time to ensure the air pollution and black carbon mitigation potential of the kiln conversions.

The operation of Zigzag kilns by trained workers will result in a 20-25% reduction in fuel consumption, up to 50% reduction in air pollutants and black carbon emissions, and improvements in brick quality.

The Climate and Clean Air Coalition is working closely with Greentech Knowledge Solutions and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) to support India in the launching of a skill development programme for brick workers in close collaboration with the Skill Council for Green Jobs.


The Climate and Clean Air Coalition’s Bricks Initiative is the only global initiative bringing together brick producers, experts, and public policy officials to achieve substantial reductions of black carbon and other emissions from the sector and transform it into a healthier, more profitable, and socially responsible industry.

Coalition partners are working to:

  • Increase scientific knowledge, improve technology and develop policy through global and regional expert groups policy through global and regional expert groups
  • Strengthen the local technical innovation capacity of producers and other actors in the sector
  • Engage and advise policy makers on policy reform to modernize the sect
What we're doing

India is working with the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, Greentech Knowledge Solutions and ICIMOD to leverage the National and State government sponsored skill development programs to train brick kiln workers in the construction and operation of around 60,000 zigzag kilns in India over the next five years. The overall goal is to ensure that skilled workers can operate the existing 8,000 to 10,000 Zigzag kilns in operation and the 40,000 kilns that will be converted into Zigzag kilns in next five years

Why we're doing this work

In South Asia clay bricks is the preferred building material. The region produces around 300 billion bricks per year. India accounts for almost 75% of the brick production, the rest 25% being contributed by Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal. Most of the bricks are hand-molded and baked in Fixed Chimney Bull Trench Kilns. Approximately, 150,000 brick kilns are scattered across South Asia.

Brick production is resource intensive. The industry uses around 30 million tonnes of coal and around 10 million tonnes of biomass annually, making it as one of the largest energy consuming industries and one of the largest industrial sources of CO2 emissions. Brick kilns emit approximately 66–84 million tonnes of CO2 and 100,000 tonnes of black carbon emissions annually. This contributes significantly to local particulate matter and sulfur dioxide air pollution. These pollutants present serious health hazards and have direct impacts on visibility, climate and melting of Himalayan snow and ice.

In addition to air pollution and CO2 emissions, the industry’s reliance on fertile agricultural land as a source of clay is another environmental concern. The industry depends on migrant workers and provides seasonal employment to around 15-20 million people, but poor living and working conditions and instances of child and bonded labor are a concern.

Pollutants (SLCPs)