The Union environment ministry has proposed an amendment that seeks to lay down a uniform emission standard for particulate matter of 250 milligrams per cubic metre (mg/Nm3) for all brick kilns across the country as part of its efforts to lower air pollution.
Under the current regulations, the standard ranges from 250-1200 mg/Nm3 depending on the technology and the size of particulate matter.
Brick kilns contribute significantly to particulate matter pollution in the Indo-Gangetic plain, which has the highest concentration of brick kilns. Brick kilns are found clustered around big metros like Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Pune, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Kanpur and Patna feeding a construction boom.
Experts, however, said lowering the standard to 250 mg/Nm3 for all kilns is a good step, but more has to be done.
“It has taken them nine years to revise the standards. They should examine and change them every five years,” Sameer Maithel, director of Greentech Knowledge Solutions Pvt Ltd, a clean energy research and advisory firm, said.
In December last year, the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) gave brick kilns operating in Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR) till June 2018 to meet standards or face closure.
New kilns across India will have to use the zigzag technology, which relies on an arrangement of the bricks to force the air to follow a zig-zag path, leading to more efficient fuel combustion and lower emissions.
“We are asking existing brick kilns to change to zigzag technology … Most of them want to do it, however, it is very labour intensive,” A Sudhakar, member secretary of the Central Pollution Control Board charged with ensuring compliance, said.
The brick kilns that have not converted yet will have to submit an affidavit to EPCA that they will start using the new technology by September. There are around 2,000 brick kilns operating in Delhi and the NCR, according to official estimates.
No such direction is in place for brick kilns in other parts of the country.
However, the apex regulator asked state pollution control boards to close the kilns that were not meeting existing standards or operating without proper permissions.
Maithel cautioned that even if brick kilns switch to the zigzag technology the Central Pollution Control Board has to be vigilant. If the construction of the kiln is not sound, pollutants could still breach norms, he added.