Bricks prices reach new highs as EPD orders closure of kilns for smog season


–Bricks Kiln Association blames high demand for rising prices

LAHORE: Ever since the Environment Protection Department (EPD) ordered the closure of kilns from October 20 till December to reduce the impact of smog, bricks prices have reached a new high amid rising demand, Pakistan Today has observed.

A contractor, Irfan Ahmed, told this scribe that the price of 1,000 bricks, which used to be Rs5,000 to Rs6,000, had now reached Rs8,000 to 10,000. “I have told the owners of construction houses that either revise the price agreement or discard it. I cannot afford these prices. Bricks are not available at kilns in routine. They are only being sold in the black market.”

Raza Butt, who is getting a new house constructed on Lawrence Road, said the prices of bricks had left him distressed. “I have halted the work on my house till the time prices come down again. If I continue the construction work I will soon be bankrupt. The government should take notice of the situation and find a solution to it at the earliest so that people could be relieved,” he added.

Pakistan Bricks Kiln Association President Shoaib Khan Niazi blamed the high demand for rising prices of bricks. “In the past, we used to leave some bricks at kilns so that they could be sold in such situations but now all bricks are sold as soon as they are prepared.  Soon after the government announced its decision to close kilns from October 20, the demand for bricks skyrocketed while kilns were also not producing any due to rainfalls.”

He further said that the government’s decision would adversely affect the industry.

“We have told the Environment Department to consult experts first and then make decisions in this regard. There is no need to close any kilns as they have quite a minor contribution in smog as compared to rice and sugar mills as well as other such industries that produce way more smoke.”

However, Shoaib said, if smog continued, they were ready to close kilns for the greater interests of the country and people. According to him, there were about 10,000 kilns in Punjab and total 18,000 kilns across the country. “A kiln provides jobs to about 35 to 40 people and if the government closes brick kilns for a long period of time, hundreds of thousands would be left jobless. There will be a huge loss of coal as well.”

Punjab Environment Department Director Naseemur Rehman, on the other hand, did not agree with Niazi’s stance. “We have been asking kiln owners for the past three to four years to shift to Zigzag technology that is environment-friendly but they did not comply. We do not have any kind of enmity with kiln owners.”

He also said that the department had written to commissioners and deputy commissioners of 36 districts of Punjab to take action against kiln owners who have increased prices of bricks.