Monthly Archives: June 2016

Why Is The Government Powerless To Stop Clay Bricks?

Numerous directives, guidelines and rules have been issued by various government bodies regarding clay bricks, but the situation on the ground is not changing. The government has not outright banned burnt clay bricks, but the urgency of the many directives issued over the years makes it clear that alternatives need to be adopted in place of red clay bricks.

The main reason is that it is financially unviable for the numerous small and medium clay brick kilns to either move to a better clay brick production method or shift to green alternatives such as fly-ash based bricks or blocks. They continue to operate disregarding the directives. Also, the government officials do not monitor these smaller kilns stringently. The bigger kilns move to clay brick production methods that are less polluting and are able to obtain environmental clearances but the numerous smaller kilns continue without any change.

The unorganised clay brick industry employs way too many people. The government cannot outright ban the production of red clay bricks and face a huge labour unrest. On the other hand, due to India’s booming population, growth and demand for housing, demand outstrips the total supply of building materials, including red clay bricks and better technological alternatives such as fly-ash bricks and other fly-ash based building materials such as AAC and CLC blocks. The manufacturing facilities of these modern alternatives are steadily rising but face the stumbling block of irrational demand for red clay bricks from consumers and contractors. Misconceptions and the tendency to hold on to the traditional ways of using the red brick continue creating demand for these polluting clay bricks. Consumers tend to think that if a contractor wants to use grey bricks or blocks they are compromising on quality.

Thus the vicious cycle continues. The shift towards a better and modern brick/block industry will be slow. Change, however slow, is happening. Consumers are becoming more educated about the overall cost benefits of newer technologies such as AAC blocks. Contractors are updating their technical know how and also advising their clients to go for the greener alternatives. The brick kiln workers are demanding better wages and many are moving to organised sectors of employment. The wasteful & low-profit margin brick kilns are going out of business. Foreign companies are enacting strict rules about sourcing of materials in their supply chain and not purchasing from kilns where labour exploitation happens. NGOs and activists, both domestic and foreign, are helping create change in the archaic methods of production. The organised sector of large factories making AAC blocks, CLC blocks & fly-ash bricks is steadily increasing. The government is waking up to the pollution problem, amidst the global climate change crisis, and enacting guidelines and regulations at an increasing frequency. Hopefully, all these changes and forces will converge to cause a tipping point, a paradigm shift, somewhere in the near future, and change the Indian brick industry for good.

What is needed is better communication and education about the facts and ground reality among all related parties. That is what this blog is committed in doing and will continue to do so. Magicrete strives to create a better developed India and we hope to reach the tipping point soon. We want to take India from being a developing country to being a developed country, at least in the construction industry, as soon as possible.

WHY IS THE MoEF INDIA AGAINST RED CLAY BRICKS?

Bricks are usually red, but not for long, in future when you will think of bricks, a range of different shapes and sizes will come to mind – AAC blocks, CLC blocks, fly ash bricks, etc. and you will think of the colour grey, the colour of fly ash.

 

Red clay bricks get their colour from the iron-oxide in the valuable fertile topsoil which is used to make them. A huge amount of agricultural soil gets wasted and locked-into structures as a result of red clay bricks. Surging housing & construction growth in India has majorly highlighted the problem of red clay bricks like never before.

 

Red clay bricks are completely banned in some areas like Gurgaon but in the entire country there is no blanket ban as such at the moment, only guidelines and directives such as these MoEF notifications – issued in 2008, issued in 2013. Many producers require Environmental Clearances (ECs) and pollution control board clearance but state governments and national authorities (The Supreme Court, The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF), The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and The National Green Tribunal (NGT) among others) are in the process of formulating complete bans. Rules vary across the country but it is clear that everyone wants to reduce and eventually altogether cease the manufacturing of burnt red clay bricks. Using fly-ash for bricks is mandatory in a 100km radius around thermal power plants and for constructing government buildings in some states.

 

Illegal mining of soil is a huge problem. The unorganised sector doesn’t want to take the hassles of organising and managing the supply of better materials and prefers to “just take the soil from somewhere” and make bricks with it. While the organised sector of AAC and CLC blocks works professionally by managing the raw-materials for production more efficiently. Earlier fly-ash used to be dumped in the forests but now fly-ash brick, AAC block and CLC block makers use the same wasted fly-ash and make better bricks than the burnt red clay bricks which deplete soil and cause massive pollution apart from using a huge amount of energy during production.

 

Despite the urgent directives, implementation is not done due to ever-increasing demand for construction materials. To be frank, most people don’t care if the environment gets hurt “a little” for their profits. They are wrong, not just ethically but even profits and business wise, as the new improved bricks are cheaper to manufacture as well as build and maintain structures with.
There are already civil court cases such as this related to brick manufacturing. Resistance to change and preference for the “traditional methods” of building are not an excuse for harming the environment. Despite directives and the logic and economics in favour of the alternatives of red clay bricks, it is a pity that the construction sector in fast developing India, which is the 2nd largest manufacturer of bricks in the world after China is, is still clinging onto past traditions despite better new alternatives.