‘Politicking’ on public health: Govt retracts pledge to close down old-fashioned brick kilns

Updated November 17, 2019

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The Punjab government on Saturday retracted its earlier announcement of closing down old-fashioned brick kilns in central and north eastern Punjab to control smog currently tormenting people, saying it did not want to “increase the problems of people or render anyone jobless.” — Dawn/File
The Punjab government on Saturday retracted its earlier announcement of closing down old-fashioned brick kilns in central and north eastern Punjab to control smog currently tormenting people, saying it did not want to “increase the problems of people or render anyone jobless.” — Dawn/File

LAHORE: The Punjab government on Saturday retracted its earlier announcement of closing down old-fashioned brick kilns in central and north eastern Punjab to control smog currently tormenting people, saying it did not want to “increase the problems of people or render anyone jobless.”

The decision was made at a meeting held at the Alhamra between Industries Minister Aslam Iqbal and representatives of the All Pakistan Brick Kilns Association led by its president Shoaib Niazi.

The Environment Protection Department had earlier announced that the old fashioned brick kilns would be closed down from November 1, 2019 to prevent them from contributing to smog. Later, the chief minister extended the deadline till Nov 5.

Insiders say the decision to defer the closure was “politically motivated”. It seems the political leadership succumbed to the brick kiln owners pressure, they say. On technical grounds these units should have been closed down in the Red Zone comprising districts of Lahore, Gujranwala etc.

Smog or air pollution has reached critical levels in Lahore and elsewhere. It was touching ‘hazardous levels’ again on Saturday.

A handout issued by the government said no brick kiln would nevertheless be allowed to use substandard fuel. All would be switched over to zigzag technology till December 31, 2020. Brick kilns of central Punjab -- from Jhelum to Okara -- will be switched to it within four months in the first phase.

It was also decided in the meeting to close 84 new brick kilns using obsolete technology would be demolished on failure to transfer to new technology within two months.

An agreement will be signed with the brick kiln association for ensuring implementation on the decisions.

The minister said no brick kiln in the province would be closed as “we do not want to increase difficulties of common man by closing brick kilns”.

He said those not following the instructions would be dealt with sternly.

He said after December 31, 2020 no brick kiln would be operated without zigzag technology. He said that “steps” would be taken to control smog but no one would be made jobless by closing the brick kilns.

Published in Dawn, November 17th, 2019