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17 Apr 2019 | Air pollution solutions

South–South business partnerships towards energy-efficient and low-emission brick production in Pakistan

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Training of Brick Kiln Owners in Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industries (Photo: All Pakistan Brick Kiln Owners’ Association)

Business-to-business and government-level efforts between All Pakistan Brick Kiln Owners’ Association (APBKOA) and the Federation of Nepal Brick Industries (FNBI) are helping transform Pakistan’s 20–times-larger brick industry through technical skills transfer for 1,500 brick kiln owners/workers and 250 engineers in 2018 alone. The trainings on transfer of technical skills, coupled with policy directives, have fast-tracked the conversion of traditional kilns into cleaner zig-zag kilns. Three hundred kilns have already been converted and more are in the process of conversion.

There are around 20,000 brick kilns in Pakistan with half of them in the state of Punjab. The zig-zag technology reduces emissions by 50% and coal consumption by 20%, providing a win-win situation for brick owners and the environment.

A significant percentage of the air pollution and aggravated winter fog in Punjab during the past decade has been attributed to emission-heavy traditional brick production practices. Aggravated winter fog has resulted in low visibility-related ground and air disruptions as well as health impacts. The technical skills transfer trainings were therefore supported by a directive from the Government of Pakistan prohibiting the operation of all traditional kilns in the state between October and December 2018. Overnight, just five out of 10,000 traditional brick kilns in the whole state were operational. Such political will in cleaning up the air and possible commercial benefits in converting to energy-efficient, environment-friendly brick technologies led to national media coverage and demonstrated potential for national uptake.

Pakistan’s brick industry is operational throughout the year and employs 1.3 million women and men. Although regulations are lax, the industry is highly productive and accounts for 1.5% of Pakistan’s gross domestic product. Brick kilns are recognized as one of the largest stationary sources of black carbon (a major component of soot). Along with iron and steel production, it contributes to 20% of total worldwide black carbon emissions.

Onsite training and inspection of brick kiln construction in progress (Photo: All Pakistan Brick Kiln Owners’ Association)
Onsite training and inspection of brick kiln construction in progress, (Photo: All Pakistan Brick Kiln Owners’ Association)

ICIMOD seeks to transform the brick industries in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan into cleaner and healthier industries. It collaborates with entrepreneurs and government policy makers to adopt cleaner technologies and reduce negative environmental impacts. ICIMOD has supported the successful conversion of traditional to zig-zag kilns in Nepal, with 100% conversion in the Kathmandu Valley. This has resulted in significantly reduced coal consumption and air pollution emissions.

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