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Key Issues Facing the Brick Industry

The clay fired brick remains the material of choice in a booming construction industry, particularly in South Asia.

Rapid urbanization and construction in developing countries is driving the demand for increased brick production. The majority of existing brick kilns are inefficient and highly polluting. A 200-300% increase in demand has been projected In India by 2030. This will significantly increase current brick production for example India’s annual production of 250 billion bricks.

Brick Kilns Kathmandu Valley Post FIle Image
Brick kilns in Kathmandu Valley belch out smoke. Kathmandu Post, Jan 3rd 2020

The brick industry in developing world has many serious issues, including:

  • A significant contributor to climate change it has catastrophic impacts on the environment affecting billions.
  • Irreparably damages the health and well-being of kiln workers, their families and the surrounding communities through respiratory and cardiovascular disease. Air pollution generated by brick kilns results in thousands of premature deaths annually (e.g. Dhaka)
  • The source of significant, greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), CO2 emissions and short‐lived climate pollutants (SLCP’s) including black carbon (soot). This is due to the combined effects of fuel inefficiency, incomplete fuel combustion, antiquated kiln technologies and scavenged fuel use.
  • The industry is one of the most significant and toxic sources of pollution. Brick kilns are the largest stationary source of atmospheric black carbon or ‘soot’ in South Asia.
  • Black carbon has a warming impact on climate 460-1,500 times stronger than CO2.
  • Generally a harsh industry for workers – the use of bonded and child labour is widespread throughout the industry.
  • Workers are generally poor, many are migratory labourers from marginalized communities. Note: India has approximately 15 million people working in the industry.
  • Agriculture is impacted: topsoil is removed for brick making and arable land degraded through toxic emissions contaminating soil, reducing crop yields and food security is also compromised.

For further reading on the real issues facing the brick industry, view the following special reports:

Modernizing-Artisanal-Brick Kilns a Global Need PDF‘Modernizing Artisanal Brick Kilns – A Global Need’.
Environmental Health Perspectives


National Brick Mission - A Scoping Paper
‘National Brick Mission – A Scoping Paper’
Centre for Science and Environment – India