Due to Lahore and the surrounding region with the worst air quality in the world, the Punjab government has declared an environmental emergency and announced the closure of schools three days a week. The government has also directed municipal departments to guarantee that anti-smog plans are carried out. These orders were imposed during a period of the year when a catastrophic smog condition impacts huge swaths of urban areas. These measures are merely a last-ditch effort to address the fundamental source of the problem. School closures are a reflection of a systemic failure to handle a serious public health hazard situation that has afflicted the people for nearly a decade.
The Punjab National Calamities Act of 1958 labelled smog a disaster, and the Punjab government appropriately implemented a smog-management policy in 2017, prohibiting brick kilns from operating without emission control equipment or using poor fuels. As a result, in collaboration with a Nepalese environmental organisation and the ‘All Brick Kiln Owners Association of Pakistan,’ the Environment Protection Department launched environmentally sustainable and economically viable zigzag brick kiln technology in Pakistan. The bricks’ zigzag stacking improves fuel efficiency. It produces less white smoke and has lower levels of air pollution. Kilns adopting this technique release less particulate matter and reduce them by 60%. They also reduce coal use by 40%, resulting in a significant reduction in smog. The brick kiln sector is a significant source of air pollution. Despite the ban on brick kilns using traditional techniques and the availability of workable alternative brick-baking processes, brick kiln owners continue to violate smog Operating Procedures by secretly burning unclean fuel, such as rubber tyres.
A conventional kiln must first undergo a $15,000-$20,000 conversion process in order to be used for zigzagging. These kilns often use more expensive, higher-quality coal and also have higher land and labour expenditures than conventional traditional kilns. Owners of kilns are hesitant to upgrade to this technology. In this case, the government has authorised 6% subsidised loans for the construction of or conversion to zigzag kilns by owners of traditional kilns. However, a lot of operators of brick kilns still choose to use inexpensive waste products as fuel, which releases dangerous toxins into the environment. The Ministry of Climate Change reports that just 11,000 of the 20,000 brick kilns have so far used zigzag kiln technology. This transformation needs to be expanded right now given the dire pollution condition.
Given the severe pollution situation, this transition needs to be expanded immediately the primary fuel for brick kilns, old car tyres, must first be controlled for resale. Also, brick kiln owners should be given low-interest loans to encourage them to upgrade their conventional brick kilns to zigzag technology. Finally, instead of closing brick kilns during the winter to disrupt the economy and the lives of the labour force, more attention should be paid to brick kiln conversions.