Overall, the brick industry contributes 20 to 25 per cent of global air pollution. In South Asia, particulate matter pollution has contributed to a reduction in life expectancy of one year and seven months in the region. However, despite the sector’s negative impacts, it also makes up 1.5 per cent of the country's GDP and employs almost 5 million people, making efforts to stem its environmental damage while preserving jobs and economic opportunities crucial.
Private Sector Partnership
Given its informal nature and a sector-wide resistance to outside intervention, working with the brick sector has been traditionally difficult. The CCAC, ICIMOD, and Pakistan’s government have worked to bring entrepreneurs, government, and other stakeholders to the same table to hammer out a better future for the sector.
“Bringing the brick kiln owners and the policy makers together in one platform to discuss the issues was really effective,” said Pradhan
One effective strategy was to inform kiln owners about the potential economic benefits from moving to cleaner technology. Zig zag kilns have the potential to save 6 million tons of coal, a huge financial savings for owners.
“We tell them that environmental compliance and laws will increase their fuel efficiency and decrease their fuel bill,” said Muhammad Irfan Tariq, the Director General of Environment & Climate Change at the Ministry of Climate Change. “There will be less emissions, which is good for the environment, and the bricks will be of better quality, which is good for their customers.”
Asad agrees and says that, as a pioneer in the region, he’s convinced more than 200 kiln operators to start using zig zag technology. The benefits make it an easy sell, he says.
“It’s eco-friendly as well as cost-saving, so it increases profits while helping the environment.”
With the help of the CCAC, the Federation of South Asian Brick Kilns Association (FABKA) was created to help strengthen the sector and improve communications between stakeholders across the region. FABKA includes the Brick Kiln Owners’ Association of Pakistan (BKOAP) and also coalitions from Nepal, India, and Bangladesh who, as a result of the regional coalition, are now meeting regularly to synthesize and support broader action. With the support of ICIMOD, FABKA has drafted a constitution and created a roadmap for transforming the sector. In the upcoming years, the association will be able to function independently.
Another challenge in facilitating this transition is that, while long term zig zag technology can save producers a great deal of money, the conversion requires an upfront investment that can be prohibitive for brick kiln producers, many of whom are operating on a thin margin.
“We need 100 per cent more investment in the existing business to convert to zig zag technology. Almost double the labour is required,” said Asad.
In some cases, the Punjab government has provided loans to brick kiln operators to make the transition but more funding is needed to help producers make these important changes.