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Another brick in the wall Another brick in the wall
by Aakanksha Tyagi
2010-07-23 08:52:42
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Indian economy and industrialization is growing rapidly. Growth numbers are increasing steadily like a wall rising with every added brick. Fast paced economic growth is leading to increase in urbanization. Towns are experiencing facelift with the booming reality sector, and malls are mushrooming in every city. Big cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, and Bangalore are expanding their horizons. Our cities are slowly and steadily becoming a concrete ecosystem and we are raising the walls and enclosing ourselves, away from nature.

Exponential urban sprawl has resulted in huge demand for clay bricks. Clay bricks are the most inevitable raw material in construction work and are omnipresent. Brick making belongs to an unorganized sector mostly confined to rural and peri-urban areas. India is second largest producer of clay bricks after China (Gazette of India, 1996). The annual brick production in the country is estimated to be 140 billion and total brick producing units are estimated to exceed 1.5 lakhs (TERI, New Delhi).  Manufacturing of bricks being an informal sector has many socio-economic and environmental drawbacks.

Major environmental concerns related to brick industry are air pollution and soil degradation. It is one of the most energy intensive industries in India, estimated to consume 1-20 million tons of coal per year (Majumdar, N.C; 1986). Given the fact that brick industry is the third largest consumer of coal in India, it has substantial contribution to carbon dioxide emissions (TERI, New Delhi). Apart from carbon dioxide, brick kilns also emit other pollutants such as SPM, CO, SOx, coal dust, hydrocarbons, VOCs etc. Although local impact of air pollution caused by small isolated brick kilns are insignificant, it is large clusters of brick kilns located in peri-urban areas and in the vicinity of demand centers are huge cause of concern. Air pollution by these clusters affects not just the workers and local residents, but also nearby agriculture crops.

Further, brick industry in India uses good quality agricultural soil as raw material, leaving behind infertile subsoil, which is poor for crop growth (Fosberg, Walker, Falen, 1985). This practice deprives our crops of essential nutrients they deserve which we are putting in to our walls.

Industrialization and hence urbanization are emerging as necessary evils. We cannot shut down the brick kilns as they are pivotal in the urban ecosystems, however if the brick kilns continue to deplete and degrade our environment, we will end up with mere bricks and the walls! Hence it is essential to monitor and regulate pollution from brick kilns by making use of clean manufacturing technologies, pollution control devices. Introducing and ensuring proper implementation of laws relating to clustering of brick kilns away from urban and agricultural areas and their pollution control measures holds the key to this industries future.

Acknowledgements- Author thanks Dr. Dinesh Kumar Sharma, Senior Scientist, IARI (ICAR, Ministry of Agriculture Govt. of India) for his guidance for this article.

Aakanksha Tyagi School of Environmental Studies University of Delhi

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