Zigzag kilns hold promise for ‘greening’ brick industry

Kathmandu, February 16

Brick kilns rank among the most notorious sources of pollution in South Asia, emitting thick black smoke filled with carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, and particulate matter such as black carbon.

However, for brick manufacturers, adopting other forms of technology has meant reducing brick quality and overall productivity. In Kathmandu this week, brick manufacturers from Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan met to exchange ideas and practices about the design and construction of zigzag kilns, a new configuration that produces high quality bricks at lower costs and less harmful emissions.

Currently, the Fixed Chimney Bull’s Trench Kiln is the most common design of brick kiln and it contributes significantly to poor air quality that adversely impact human health and vegetation. For 3 days, conference participants discussed means to convert existing FCBTKs to zigzag kilns, which are also more earthquake resistant.

The three-day event was jointly organised by the International Centre for Mountain Development  and the Federation of Nepal Brick Industries. The 20-plus participants also made field visits to examine zigzag kilns in Bhaktapur, Dhading, and Biratnagar to gain first-hand experience and testimony from current operators.

The conference was organised as part of ICIMOD’s DFID-funded Brick Kiln Initiative to help rebuild Nepal’s brick sector after the earthquake 2015. Programme coordinator, Bidya Banmali Pradhan at ICIMOD, said, “We are encouraged to learn that progressive brick entrepreneurs in Nepal have converted their FCBTKs to zigzag kilns. As we want to see more and more brick entrepreneurs in South Asia follow suit, we’ve been working hard to spread the word about improved zigzag kiln designs and facilitating exposure visits for interested brick entrepreneurs from the region and beyond.”

Mahendra Bahadur Chitrakar, the FNBI President, said the brick kiln idea spreaded from India to Nepal and now Nepal was moving to share this technology with the region. “We adapted the zigzag kiln to our context and further developed it. Air pollution is a complex problem that no single country can solve.” According to him, there are about 138,000 brick kilns in South Asia, and it has decided to form a Federation of Asian Brick Kiln Associations to address multiple challenges, including growing environmental and health concerns through regional cooperation and collaboration.