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Environment and Health Impacts of Kathmandu's Brick Kilns

Environment and Health Impacts of Kathmandu's Brick KilnsEnvironment and Health Impacts of Kathmandu's Brick Kilns
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Brick kilns, operating in Kathmandu valley, are known to be a prime cause of air pollution. According to a study done by the World Bank (1996), Kathmandu's kilns are responsible for 31 percent of the total suspended particles (TSP) and 28 percent of the particulate matter less than 10 microns (PM10) in the Valley. The levels of TSP and PM10 are major problems in Kathmandu because these levels are significantly higher than WHO guidelines and particulate matters cause health problem, particularly in the respiratory system. This study was done to assess the environmental and health impact of Kathmandu's brick industry in detail and explore options for mitigating these impacts.

The use of poor quality fuel in inefficient and outdated technology such as Bull’s Trench kilns are causing significant environmental and health impacts. Cleaner technologies such as vertical shaft kilns and fixed chimney kilns are available and can be used instead of the Bull's Trench Kilns. The use of these technologies will significantly reduce the air pollution as well as lower cost of production because of savings in fuel consumption.

The main environmental impact of brick kilns is the emission of fine particulate matter, which can have adverse impact on the respiratory system of local people. Air quality monitoring done during the course of this study has indicated that the level of particulate matter in the air is about three times higher in areas with brick kilns compared to areas without kilns. Monitoring done in Tikathali village during the brick season and the off-season also indicated that the concentration of particulate matter during the brick season is approximately three times higher than the levels during off-season.

Although, it has been a known fact that these polluting brick kilns have adverse impact on human health, very few studies present the health impact due to brick kilns of Kathmandu valley. A health survey done during this study clearly showed that people living near brick kilns are more likely to suffer from illnesses related to the pollution caused by the kilns, compared to people living in areas without the kilns. Health examination of children studying in a school located next to brick kilns and comparing that with those from an area without kilns, showed that the health of the children exposed to emission from brick kilns was worse than the health of the children in the control area. The examination clearly showed that young children under the age of 6 were more vulnerable to the health impacts of air pollution.

Recently local people have begun to raise their voices against the pollution from brick kilns and in response to this outcry, the government has taken a few positive steps towards controlling the pollution. Furthermore, international agencies such as DANIDA and SDC have initiated programmes to introduce cleaner technologies. This study recommends that these efforts should be fully supported by the government as well as the industrialists and the government should take strong measures to shut down illegal kilns and make sure that all industrialists shift to cleaner technology kilns within a year and half. The government should also take measures to introduce emission standards and enforce them.

Go to the BAQ 2004 website
Country / City
Industrial air pollution
CEN - Clean Energy Nepal
Raut, Anil K.
Tuladhar, Bhushan

Secretariat: The World Bank & Asian Development Bank