Sitemap | Contact Us


Challenges & Issues in the Indian Brick Sector
Associated Environmental Issues

Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has recognised the brick production industry as a highly resource and energy intensive and polluting industry owing to prevalence of obsolete production technologies. While, the clusters are the source of local air pollution affecting local population, agriculture and vegetation; at a global scale they also contribute to climate change.

The brick industry competes for resources with other sectors, which poses a significant challenge to the sector. Coal is one such resource that is required for the power, steel and other crucial sectors. Also, top soil or land which could be used for agriculture. The traditional kiln unit itself occupies considerable land area and is subjected to high temperature making it unfit for agricultural activities (after the site is abandoned). The fast depletion of arable land thus caused due to brick making is a matter of concern to India regarding food security.

With an average consumption of 18 tonnes of coal per 100,000 bricks, the brick sector consumes about 24 million tonnes of coal per year which is about 8 % of the total coal consumption of the country (third largest consumer after power and steel sector). In addition, it also consumes several million tonnes of biomass fuels. The share of energy in total cost of brick production is 35-50 %.

The large coal consumption of the brick industry is the cause of significant air pollution in terms of carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and suspended particulate matter (SPM). The large amounts of coal used for brick firing also leave behind bottom ash as residue. The air pollution and bottom ash generated cause considerable health problems, especially related to respiratory health, while also causing damage to property and crops.

The Supreme Court of India issued a directive for discontinuing the movable chimney kilns and for all brick kilns to conform to new environmental norms. While this signalled a move in the right direction, due to lax monitoring mechanisms such kilns continue to function and flout environmental regulations. Additionally, while kilns with higher production levels and capital have the option to changeover to fixed chimney type BTKs, the small and medium scale brick entrepreneurs are confronted with environmental regulation without having financially viable options to switch and thus continue to run polluting kilns.

A young woman employed
in a brick kiln

Brick Transportation

Young men transporting
finished bricks

Brick Transportation

Pollution from a
brick kiln

Associated Socio-Economic Issues

The workers in the brick industry are subjected to extreme working conditions and poor remuneration. Currently in India, brick manufacturing is a labour-intensive sector, with crude techniques causing considerable worker drudgery. They are also exposed to high concentrations of Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter (RSPM), during monitoring and regulating the fire, as the furnace chamber is covered with ash (ash acts as insulator). As well as during the manual mixing of fly ash and clay and due to the open dumping and storage of fly ash. Transportation of green and red bricks is done by a head load of 9 to 12 kgs causing health problems, especially in women. Even though the brick workers are exposed to these occupational hazards, coverage under any sort of insurance or medical facilities is virtually unheard of.

In the brick sector, labour is brought in through a contractor (from distant places). Since they are not on the payrolls of the kiln owner, they are not covered under the current labour laws, e.g. Minimum Wages Act. The work force is paid on basis of quantum of work and against completion of certain tasks such as moulding of 1000 bricks, transportation of 1000 green bricks etc. The seasonal nature of brick production generates employment for a limited period of six - seven months in a year. Majority of the workforce has no option, but to engage as labourers (generally as agricultural labourers) for the rest of the year.

The nature of the work requires skilled labour especially for moulding and firing. There is large scale migration towards the major brick production clusters every season due to this. These tasks are traditionally handed down from father to son in the communities. The last few years have seen a labour shortage as the newer generation does not want to be associated with the brick sector any longer. A phenomenon observed in certain clusters due to this shortage is the hoodwinking of entrepreneurs by labour by promising their services to multiple owners, taking advances and not turning up. Labour rates have also gone up driving down margins for kiln owners.

About us  |   Ask us  |   Contact us  |   Related links  |   Site map  |   Network Partners  |   Disclaimer

Copyright ©2012 Development Alternatives