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.