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Clean bricks please

Saturday, May 11th, 2013
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Representatives from eleven countries including Nepal’s Secretary at the Ministry of Industry Krishna Gyawali gathered in Kathmandu the two day conference on Friday to discuss  health, agriculture and climate damage caused by traditional brick kilns. During the South-South Exchange Workshop on Brick Technology and Policy, experts and participants emphasised on the need for cleaner brick technologies.
India burns 25 million tons of coal annually just to fire its brick kilns. Kathmandu’s brick kilns are responsible for half the air pollution, and in winter it sits at ground level due to temperature inversion. The soot particles from the smokestacks mix with diesel exhaust to form a layer of soot over southern Asia that is thousands of kilometres long and up to 4,000 m thick. Prevailing winds waft them over Himalayan glaciers, melting them faster.
Krishna Gyawali, Secretary at the Ministry of Industry emphasised the urgency of the problem, noting that the brick sector consumes more than 50 percent of the total coal in Nepal. “It is high time to accelerate mitigation of black carbon and other pollutants from key sources, such as brick kilns,” he said.
A comprehensive study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres in January concluded that black carbon was the second most damaging greenhouse agent after carbon dioxide.  The study also found that black carbon is about twice as bad for the climate than what had been thought until now. Deposits of soot on snow increase the amount of light and heat they absorb which explains the increasing glacial retreat and receding snowline in the Himalayas.
There are cleaner brick kiln technologies available, but cost and lack of government enforcement in Nepal and India have kept the old stacks belching away smoke. Greentech in India has tried out improved kilns that ensure more complete burning of coal, saving fuel and cutting soot emission. Similar projects have been tried out in Kathmandu, and the BrickClean Network has been encouraging kilns to clean up their act. Baking hollow bricks would also save money.
The best alternative may be to do away with kilns altogether and work with Compressed Stabilised Earth Blocks (CSEB) in which clay is mixed with cement in a 96:4 ratio and compressed with a manual compactor. The resulting bricks are even stronger than kiln-baked bricks, and do not pollute.
Participants also emphasised the importance of inter-ministerial coordination among ministries of housing, industry, health, agriculture and environment to achieve large-scale reductions at the national level.
The workshop was organised by Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) and jointly hosted by the National Institute of Ecology in Mexico and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and will carry on the discussion and consider priorities for reducing SLCPs from brick production at its next meeting in July 2013.

Representatives from eleven countries including Nepal’s Secretary at the Ministry of Industry Krishna Gyawali gathered in Kathmandu the two day conference on Friday to discuss health, agriculture and climate damage caused by traditional brick kilns. During the South-South Exchange Workshop on Brick Technology and Policy, experts and participants emphasised on the need for cleaner brick technologies.

India burns 25 million tons of coal annually just to fire its brick kilns. Kathmandu’s brick kilns are responsible for half the air pollution, and in winter it sits at ground level due to temperature inversion. The soot particles from the smokestacks mix with diesel exhaust to form a layer of soot over southern Asia that is thousands of kilometres long and up to 4,000 m thick. Prevailing winds waft them over Himalayan glaciers, melting them faster.

Krishna Gyawali, Secretary at the Ministry of Industry emphasised the urgency of the problem, noting that the brick sector consumes more than 50 percent of the total coal in Nepal. “It is high time to accelerate mitigation of black carbon and other pollutants from key sources, such as brick kilns,” he said.

Not so pretty : Traditional brick kilns in Kathmandu are a major contributor to the city's air pollution

A comprehensive study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres in January concluded that black carbon was the second most damaging greenhouse agent after carbon dioxide.  The study also found that black carbon is about twice as bad for the climate than what had been thought until now. Deposits of soot on snow increase the amount of light and heat they absorb which explains the increasing glacial retreat and receding snowline in the Himalayas.

There are cleaner brick kiln technologies available, but cost and lack of government enforcement in Nepal and India have kept the old stacks belching away smoke. Greentech in India has tried out improved kilns that ensure more complete burning of coal, saving fuel and cutting soot emission. Similar projects have been tried  out in Kathmandu, and the BrickClean Network has been encouraging kilns to clean up their act. Baking hollow bricks would also save money.

The best alternative may be to do away with kilns altogether and work with Compressed Stabilised Earth Blocks (CSEB) in which clay is mixed with cement in a 96:4 ratio and compressed with a manual compactor. The resulting bricks are even stronger than kiln-baked bricks, and do not pollute.

Participants at the workshop also emphasised the importance of inter-ministerial coordination among ministries of housing, industry, health, agriculture and environment to achieve large-scale reductions at the national level.

The workshop was organised by Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) and jointly hosted by the National Institute of Ecology in Mexico and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and will carry on the discussion and consider priorities for reducing Short Lived Climate Pollutants from brick production at its next meeting in July 2013.

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One Response to “Clean bricks please”

  1. Ravi Sinha on Says:

    It is a cause of great concern and I fail to see why the Government of Nepal takes an effective stand in making the use of CSEB mandatory. ICIMOD is there and must be having projects on education for the rural population of Nepal to adopt means that are steps in mitigating the onset of global climatic change. Of course in cities like Kathmandu the Government jointly with the private industry houses must try to encourage the use of AAC(Auto cleaved Aerated Concrete),CLC which do not have such deleterious impact on the vital components of the eco-system.
    Ravi Sinha
    INDIA

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