Relocating brick kilns from Valley not feasible: Study

Kathmandu, May 12:

With demand for bricks increasing by 11 per cent every year, brick kilns will probably continue to be a part of the valley landscape for long. According to a study conducted by Vertical Shaft Brick Kiln (VSBK) project with support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the valley alone needs 1.2 billion bricks every year.

Brick kilns are second only to vehicular emission when it comes to polluting the valley air. With more and more people migrating to the valley, which is home to over 20 lakh people, the demand for bricks has been rising steadily.

Relocation of brick kilns is not a feasible solution. “Transporation of bricks to the valley from outside will prove to be equally costly,” says Bhisma Pandit, an energy efficiency consultant. An estimated 1,600 vehicles will be required to transport 1.2 billion bricks in the valley. These vehicles will further congest the valley roads and further pollute the valley air.

A brick kiln requires minimum of 80 ropanies of land. Altogether 124 brick kilns have been operating in the valley and they employ over 60,000 individuals, most of whom are non-skilled and come from the hinterlands. According to Anil Dutta Bhatta, programme engineer, VSBK, a minimum of Rs 20 lakh is needed to start a kiln, meaning an investment of over Rs 25 crores has already been made in the sector. “While over Rs 70 lakh is required to set up a big brick kiln like Harisiddhi, an ordinary kiln can be set up for about Rs 20 lakh.”

“We have been trying to lessen pollution by adopting environment-friendly technology,” says Mangal Maharjan, owner of a brick kiln. A few kilns have switched to vertical shaft kiln from chimney bull’s trench kiln.

Although the VSBK is a clean technology, entrepreneurs are reluctant to go for it because it is expensive. “At the initial stage, it seems to be a high investment and low productivity but one has to consider its long-term impact,” claims Urs Hagnauer, programme director of the VSBK. He said, the technology is economical in terms of environmental conservation. The government’s guidelines on brick kilns say the kiln premises should have the radius of at least 200 feet, no objection certificate should be obtained from the concerned VDC before setting up a kiln, and kilns should be set up at a distance of 3 km from forests and communities.

“Entrepreneurs are driven by economic benefit and tend to ignore their social and environmental responsibility,” says Pandit. As they have not yet been recognised as an industry, brick kilns should get licences from the Department of Cottage and Small Industries. “It is one of the reasons why these kilns have been operating haphazardly in the valley,” says Pandits, adding, “The government should introduce strict rules specifying criteria for the brick kilns.