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Mittal Bricks Industry India Ltd. Mittal Bricks Machinery India Ltd.

CHALLENGES & ISSUES IN THE INDIAN BRICK SECTOR


ASSOCIATED ENVIRONMENT ISSUES :


Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has recognized the brick production industry as a highly resource and energy intensive and polluting industry owing to prevalence of obsolete production technologies. While, the clusters are the source of local air pollution affecting local population, agriculture and vegetation; at a global scale they also contribute to climate change.

The brick industry competes for resources with other sectors, which poses a significant challenge to the sector. Coal is one such resource that is required for the power, steel and other crucial sectors. Also, top soil or land which could be used for agriculture. The traditional kiln unit itself occupies considerable land area and is subjected to high temperature making it unfit for agricultural activities (after the site is abandoned). The fast depletion of arable land thus caused due to brick making is a matter of concern to India regarding food security.

With an average consumption of 18 tons of coal per 100,000 bricks, the brick sector consumes about 24 million tons of coal per year which is about 8 % of the total coal consumption of the country (third largest consumer after power and steel sector). In addition, it also consumes several million tones of biomass fuels. The share of energy in total cost of brick production is 35-50 %.

The large coal consumption of the brick industry is the cause of significant air pollution in terms of carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and suspended particulate matter (SPM). The large amounts of coal used for brick firing also leave behind bottom ash as residue. The air pollution and bottom ash generated cause considerable health problems, especially related to respiratory health, while also causing damage to property and crops.

The Supreme Court of India issued a directive for discontinuing the movable chimney kilns and for all brick kilns to conform to new environmental norms. While this signaled a move in the right direction, due to lax monitoring mechanisms such kilns continue to function and flout environmental regulations. Additionally, while kilns with higher production levels and capital have the option to changeover to Fixed Chimney type BTKs, the small and medium scale brick entrepreneurs are confronted with environmental regulation without having financially viable options to switch and thus continue to run polluting kilns.


A young woman employed in a brick kiln  oung men transporting finished bricks, Pollution from a brick kiln.


ASSOCIATED SOCIO-ECONOMIC ISSUES :


The workers in the brick industry are subjected to extreme working conditions and poor remuneration. Currently in India, brick manufacturing is a labour-intensive sector, with crude techniques causing considerable worker drudgery. They are also exposed to high concentrations of Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter (RSPM), during monitoring and regulating the fire, as the furnace chamber is covered with ash (ash acts as insulator). As well as during the manual mixing of fly ash and clay and due to the open dumping and storage of fly ash. Transportation of green and red bricks is done by a head load of 9 to 12 kgs causing health problems, especially in women. Even though the brick workers are exposed to these occupational hazards, coverage under any sort of insurance or medical facilities is virtually unheard of.

In the brick sector, labour is brought in through a contractor (from distant places). Since they are not on the payrolls of the kiln owner, they are not covered under the current labour laws, e.g. Minimum Wages Act. The work force is paid on basis of quantum of work and against completion of certain tasks such as moulding of 1000 bricks, transportation of 1000 green bricks etc. The seasonal nature of brick production generates employment for a limited period of six - seven months in a year. Majority of the workforce has no option, but to engage as labourers (generally as agricultural labourers) for the rest of the year.

The nature of the work requires skilled labour especially for moulding and firing. There is large scale migration towards the major brick production clusters every season due to this. These tasks are traditionally handed down from father to son in the communities. The last few years have seen a labour shortage as the newer generation does not want to be associated with the brick sector any longer. A phenomenon observed in certain clusters due to this shortage is the hoodwinking of entrepreneurs by labour by promising their services to multiple owners, taking advances and not turning up. Labour rates have also gone up driving down margins for kiln owners.

    

IMPROVED FIXED CHIMENY KILN :


Pollution control and energy conservation are inter-related in brick kilns. The combination of energy saving and reduction in pollution is a win-win situation for everyone with saving in energy costs and better working conditions for kiln workers and operators and reduction in pollution and conservation of energy resources for the society in general. But this can only happen if the pollution control packages and energy efficient operations are sincerely followed. New approach to operational practices requires a paradigm shift, integrating the whole process innovations with new patterns of technology designs. The technology innovations and trained human resources are a valuable asset, but the advantage of all this can only be taken if the work force is ready to change its mindset. All this requires training in improved technology options.

In 1857, a continuous brick kiln was invented by F.E. Hoffmann in Germany. The first kiln had a circular, arched tunnel surrounding the chimney. This reduced the fuel consumption by more than 50% compared to periodic kilns.  

Thirty years later in 1887, a British engineer W.E. Bulls designed an arch-less version of the Hoffmann kiln which is now called the Bull’s Trench Kiln or BTK. Its greatest advantage is its low cost of construction and comparatively low energy consumption. This type of kiln is most widely used in Asian countries of India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Myanmar.

Due to its proliferation and popularity in India efforts to reduce environmental emissions were taken up. The major contributor in this research and development activity was the Central Building Research Institute (CBRI), Roorkee. The efforts mainly looked at introducing incremental changes in technical details and firing practices to improve operational efficiencies. These improved practices were also endorsed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India through Gazette notification.  


FCK IN OPERATION → TRADITIONAL FCK → GREEN BRICKS


One of the major changes in the kiln structure was the introduction of “gravity settling chambers”. Gravity settling chamber is a civil construction incorporated along the length of the kiln on both sides of the chimney. It is constructed at the base of the chimney connecting to all the flue inlets. The construction of the gravity settling chamber consists of baffles to obstruct the flue gases and lengthen the residence time of the flue gases. This results in deposition of the particulate matter in the settling chamber thereby reducing the ambient air emission. Introduction of gravity settling chamber reduces pollution, with no positive effect on energy consumption.


Some of the improved practices being promoted by various organizations such as Central Building Research Institute (CBRI), Roorkee; Punjab State Council for Science and Technology (PSCST), Chandigarh; Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), Aligarh; Technology and Action for Rural Advancement (TARA), New Delhi, are in the areas of better feeding, firing and operating practices. These are not country specific and can be adopted across regions.


SELECTIVE INNOVATIONS IN FCK :

• Use of energy saving additives

• Improved storage of coal

 • Reduced size of coal

 • Smaller size of spoon used for coal feeding

 • Zig-Zag feeding pattern

• Reduced feeding interval

 • Higher chimney height

 • Better air flow and supply through changes in brick setting pattern

 • Increased combustion zone

• Efficient use of damper and its operation

 • Arresting heat losses through simple measures

 • Pattern of stacking in curves

 • Changes in brick setting to improve efficiencies

• Flue damper insulation

 • Insulated feed hole cover

                                                          All the above individually will not result in any significant changes in energy consumption and environmental emissions. However, when worked in unison will achieve the desired results.