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BRICK KILNS: A THREAT TO HUMAN HEALTH

No brick kilns shall be established on any land which is agricultural land is fit for cultivation of any agricultural produce as stated in Jammu and Kashmir Brick Kilns (Regulation) Act, 2010. But the situation is quite different. Most of these brick kilns are located in these areas across the Kashmir. Serious pollution levels are readily apparent from the thick black plumes that emanate from the chimneys and does not only damage the health of humans but the plants also become victim of the deadly smoke coming out of these brick kilns. The brick kilns use fossil fuels and wood that is responsible for the emission of greenhouse gases, such as CO2, CH4, CO, N2O, NOx, and NO. Therefore, brick kilns are significant sources of greenhouse gases as they use wood, coal, and oil as fuels for high temperature brick burning. The burning of clay and fuels in the process of making bricks produces dioxins and furans as byproducts. They are bio accumulative because of their strong affinity for fats, and thus increase manifold toxicity to the hosts. They cause abnormally functioning thyroids and other hormone system malfunctions, feminization of males and masculinization of females, compromised immune systems, behavioral abnormalities, neurobehavioral impairment including learning disorders, a shortened period of lactation in nursing mothers, endometriosis, increased incidence of diabetes, tumors and cancers, and gross birth defects. Other effects include loss of appetite, weight loss, nausea, headache, liver and renal damage, cardiac arrhythmias, allergic conjunctivitis, and retinal angiopathy.
Brick burning in the traditional way causes both short-term and long-term impacts on the environment and on human health. Short-term impacts include severe air pollution from the emission of smoke and the pollution of soil and nearby water bodies with byproducts and wastage produced by the brick kilns. These have a negative effect on vegetation and ?sh production. Brick?eld workers are also exposed to these pollutants that cause different types of occupational diseases among them like respiratory problems and dizziness. One of the most serious effects on workers is black lung disease.
The emission of suspended particulate matter is also a serious threat to the people living in and around these brick kilns. The chimney stack height of 60 ft is not sufficient to dilute the pollutants but to disperse them a stack height of 120 ft is required to disperse and dilute the pollutants. There is a need to improve the traditional brick manufacturing process in Kashmir. by improving the brick making process to make it more environmentally friendly that can be achieved by improving the combustion efficiency of existing kilns, upgrading kilns to newer and more efficient designs, upgrading the design of the chimney to emit lower levels of hazardous pollutants, and upgrading the technology of the overall process. Promoting cleaner production in this industry requires widespread understanding of changes in brick making technology. Extra taxes can be imposed to brick kiln manufacturers who depend on very low grade, high sulfur coal, which is less energy efficient. This could deter brick manufacturers from using this type of coal due to its higher price. The government should take additional initiatives and grant subsidies for importing better quality of coal like special less volatile coal. The government should promote the use of special less volatile coal produces less ash and volatile matter. Moreover, this type of coal has high calori?c value, which helps to produce quality bricks in energy efficient brick kilns and thus to also reduce particulate emissions. Consumers may also play an important role as they can boycott brick?elds which produce the most pollutants and cause the most damage to the surrounding environment. Such policies will force brick manufacturers to reconsider their use of brick kilns that cause high levels of pollution.


Compact fuel mass can be added with the bricks all through the kiln. Sawdust or coal powder can be blended with the green brick mass or solid fuel can be used as fuel channels in various stages of the kiln. This creates a combustion zone in the kilns which progressively shifts upward and utilizes the residual heat in the lower chamber to heat up the combustion air. For drying or preheating the green or crude bricks, the residual heat of the ?ue gas is utilized. Amount of fuel required can be reduced by increasing the drying time period. Uniform drying all through the brick stacks lessens imperfect burning of bricks.
Brick making is a profitable business, but the pollutants released are dangerously damaging the fragile environment of valley by releases tons of greenhouse gases such as CO2, CH4, CO, N2O, NOx, and NO, as such contribute to the warming of planet earth. They also release dioxins and furans as byproducts and are carcinogenic in nature. These brick kilns has exposed people to general health problems like headaches, fatigue, dizziness, respiratory problems, eye irritation, chest pain, cardiovascular and lung diseases, bronchitis, premature mortality, and other problems. Currently, the brick kilns in Kashmir are not well regulated by concerned authorities. The government should consider better initiatives and granting subsidies for importing better grades of coal. An open platform should be established to facilitate interaction between different stakeholders to popularize the adoption of green technology for brick manufacturing in Kashmir.
(The author teaches Environmental Science at GDC Bijbehara& is associated with Advanced learning and Career Counseling, Naina)