Brick-kilns told to halt work for four months

Gurdaspur, September 18: The Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) has asked 3,000 brick-kiln owners to shut down operations from October 1 till January 31 and install the expensive “high-draft zig-zag” technology by March 31, 2019.

The PPCB has given this order to reduce air pollution during winters as there is lot of fog and smog and emissions from kilns add to the pollution.

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Experts say the impending closure will have a cascading effect as it will render 4 lakh workers, directly engaged by the kilns, idle. This, in turn, is likely to hit the livelihood of 13 lakh construction workers.

“Punjab’s micro economy is sure to go for a six. If there are no bricks, there will be no construction. And if there is no construction, there will be no development,” averred Arun Hastir, owner of a Gurdaspur-based brick-kiln.

Ramesh Rana, vice-president of the Punjab unit of the Indian Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU), said labour had already started arriving at the brick-kilns, but owners were telling them to go back. “Labourers working in brick-kilns don’t know any other work. We have planned protests in front of DC offices across Punjab in the first week of October,” said Rana.

To complicate matters, the PPCB has asked kilns to install the “zig-zag” technology. Sources reveal that the new technique ensures uniform distribution of heat, which reduces emissions leading to less air pollution.

Owners, however, claim it is not financially feasible for them to adopt the new technique as it costs nearly Rs 40 lakh per unit.

“It will take us nearly seven years to recover the costs. Once installed, we will require skilled labour while at present all kilns engage cheap unskilled workers. If we do not adhere to the PPCB norms, then our pollution consent documents will not be renewed,” said Hastir.

Officials say there is no need for skilled labour for the new technology as the existing staff can be easily trained.

Environmental Minister OP Soni said the sooner the new technique was introduced by the brick-kiln owners the better it would be for them. “A delegation met me recently. I told them that the PPCB will make no compromise on the issue. The old technique has been rendered obsolete. It caused a lot of pollution. Haryana and Delhi kilns have already started using this technique,” added Soni.

Source Tribune India