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18 Jul 2022 | Air pollution solutions

Cleaner bricks

Pakistan’s brick sector transformation has led to significant reduction in fuel consumption and pollutant emissions

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In 2021, the Government of Pakistan recognised the country’s Brick Kiln Owners’ Association as a formal trade organisation. This major win was made possible by the adoption of clean technologies and systemic changes achieved through efforts we have co-led with our partners since 2017 and with support from national and local governments as well as brick kiln owners in more recent years.

As an informal sector not addressed within most national frameworks, the brick sector was widely criticised for non-cooperation in emissions reduction interventions. In securing their buy-in to combat air pollution and improve working conditions, we have taken forward efforts to ensure the sustainability of Pakistan’s clean brick sector. With government and private sector support, we are now piloting a process known as initial gas firing – which initiates the brick baking process – in select kilns in the country. By substituting some of the biomass fuels used to heat kilns with liquefied petroleum gas, we can significantly reduce fuel consumption and the high levels of pollutants this process releases into the atmosphere. Over time, the biomass and fuelwood savings also add up to become substantial.

These developments were made possible by a major win in 2019, when, recognizing the potential impact of zig-zag kilns in reducing carbon emissions, improving air quality, and ultimately helping achieve the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global temperature to below 1.5 degrees, the Government of Pakistan restricted the construction of conventional kilns and issued directives permitting only zig-zag kilns to operate in the peak winter smog period.

Till date, over 7,000 of the 20,000 or so brick kilns in the country have transitioned into the energyefficient and environmentally friendly zig-zag technology. Collectively, this has led to annual reduction of ~1.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2), ~10.7 thousand tonnes of particulate matter (PM), and 2.2 thousand tonnes of black carbon. Along with these environmental benefits, there is a strong business case for transition, which ensures buy-in not just from government bodies but also from businesses. Where traditional kilns consume ~100 tons of coal per month and produce 70 per cent first-grade bricks, zig-zag kilns consume 70 tons but produce 90–95 percent first-grade bricks.

Moving forward, we will continue to engage with partners in Pakistan to transfer best practices for a cleaner, more sustainable brick industry.

Transitioning to zig-zag kilns has proven a win-win for kiln owners and the Pakistan government

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