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1.0 Present Status :

1.1 Demand and Supply :

Brick Industry is ancillary to the construction industry. Therefore, the existence and future of brick industry is intimately connected with the growth of the construction industry.

Considering India as a whole, about 100 bricks are consumed per year per person ( an estimated 100 billion bricks consumed by a present population of about 990 million); i.e. her present Consumption Factor (CF) is 100. This varies with the development stage of a region, from 125 to 150 for a fast developing area, to over 200 for megacities.

As per the 1991 Census, the population of Maharashtra was 78.75 million. The decennial population growth for the country was 23.50 per cent ( or 2.15 per cent per year) for the decade 1981-1991. Applying the same growth rate for the period 1991-1998, Maharashtra's present population may be estimated at about 92 million. Multiplying this by a CF of 125, on a very conservative basis, the present consumption of bricks in Maharashtra works out to 11.50 billion bricks per year.

It is an accepted fact in the construction industry that supply of bricks always matches their demand. Going by this observation, the present production of bricks in Maharashtra should at least be 11.50 billion nos. per year. Majority of burnt clay brick manufacturers in Maharashtra employ hand-moulding, sun-drying and clamp-burning methods and work for 6 to 7 months of a year only, from November to May. Assuming that the average production of these Brick Fields is about 10 lakhs bricks per season per unit, there are about 11,500 units in the State. They are mostly clustered in the vicinity of either developed markets ( like Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Nashik, , Thane, Solapur, Aurangabad, Kolhapur, Sangli, Bhiwandi, Malegaon, Dhule, etc. ) or around abundant raw material sources. The sizes of open clamps vary between 25,000 nos. and 10,00,000 nos.

The Moving Chimney Kiln culture in Maharashtra is only present in Bhiwandi / Ambarnath area ( District Thane ), Raigad, Nandurbar, Jalgaon, Nagpur and Chandrapur Districts in Maharashtra. The total number of these kilns may be estimated at about 100. Their capacities vary between 10,000 to 50,000 bricks per day, the average being 20,000 bricks per day. The 'mistries' 'setters' and 'firemen' normally come from Gujarat, Punjab or Western U.P. There is only one High Draught Kiln in operation in the State at Murud ( District Latur ) of 30,000 bricks per day capacity. There are no Fixed Chimney Kilns in existence at present.

1.2 Manufacturing Process :

Surface soil from barren lands / rice fields and alluvial clay ( called 'Poyta' in Marathi ) from banks / beds of rivers, ponds and percolation tanks are used as raw materials for bricks. If soil / clay is procured from privately owned lands, in addition to the usual Royalty and Cess, payment to landlords varies between Rs. 50.00 and Rs. 150.00 per 200 cft truck load. The Government of Maharashtra has recently exempted entrepreneurs belonging to Kumhar Caste from payment of Royalty and Cess.

A family of two to four persons - husband, wife and one or two children - can mould upto 1,500 nos. 9" x 4" x 3" size bricks and 750 nos. 9" x 6" x 4" size bricks per day including raw-mix preparation, shaping and setting operations. Coal powder / ash, chopped bagasse / husk and grog ( burnt powdery material from brick kilns ) is mixed with clay in the desired proportion to impart the right plasticity and burnability to the raw-mix. For this work, contract labour is paid Rs. 80.00 to Rs. 135 .00 per 1,100 nos. 9" x 4" x 3" size bricks, and double the amount for 9" x 6" x 4" size bricks. During monsoon, moulders are ' booked ' for the oncoming season by paying Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 15,000 as advance per family. Moulders normally come from draught-prone areas in Jalgaon and Beed Districts in Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh ( M.P.), Bijapur ( Karnataka ), etc. Districts adjoining Maharashtra.

1.3 Fuel and Brick Quality :

'B' or 'C' Grade Steam Coal from WCL's Coal Mines in Chandrapur / Yavatmal Districts is primarily used as fuel in firing open clamps. Its present landed cost varies in the range of Rs. 1,200.00 at Nagpur and Rs. 2,600.00 at Pune. Undersize material in grit or powder form rejected by Thermal Power Stations is also used, its destination price varying between Rs. 1,000.00 to Rs. 1,800.00. Coal ash ( i.e. partially burnt coal from grate-type boilers, railway engines, etc. ) is used as a supplementary fuel. After screening the coal ash, the fines are mixed with clay and the coarser part is used as fuel for firing the clamp from its sides. The proportion of coal powder / ash mixed with clay may vary between 75 and 120 kg per 1,000 dry green bricks, while that of steam coal used in the clamp may vary between 100 and 150 kg per 1,000 bricks. Steam coal, refinery / oil industry waste, firewood, rice husk, etc. are used as fuels in Moving Chimney Kilns.

Although IS : 1077-1992 recommends use of 'Modular' bricks ( of 7.5" x 3.5" x 3.5") or 'Non-Modular' bricks ( of 9" x 4.25" x 2.75"), none of the manufacturers in Maharashtra adopts this size. 9" x 4" x3" size bricks are called 'full size' bricks. Length of an individual hand-made brick varies between 8.5" and 9", width 3.5" and 4" and height 2.5" and 3". These smaller bricks are called 'cut size' ones. 9" x 6" x 4" bricks, which are called 'double bricks', are of recent origin and are gaining popularity in urban markets day by day. Bricks fired in open clamps and moving chimney kilns are only classified in two categories - saleable and rejects ( i.e. underburnt or overburnt ). Breakages and rejections during clamp-firing are upto 20 per cent.

Due to the peculiar quality of soil in Maharashtra, which needs addition of higher proportion of coal powder / ash / grog to reduce its plasticity and improve burnability, bricks in Maharashtra are generally more porous and low in strength (usually less than 35 kg / cm²), as compared to the ones in the North and North-East India.

1.4 Selling Prices :

Bricks of higher heights fetch higher prices. The present 'destination' rates of 'cut size' bricks in Maharashtra vary in the rage of Rs.800.00 and Rs.1,800.00 per 1,000 nos. 'Double bricks' are sold within a range of Rs. 2,200.00 to Rs. 3,400.00 per 1,000 nos. Bricks are viably sold within an average 'marketable radius' of about 100 kilometers from the point of their manufacture. A 10 tonne truck normally accommodates 2,000 'double bricks', or 3,000 'full size' or 4,000 to 5,000 'cut size' bricks. The present Sales Tax in the State is 8 per cent.
2.0 Burning Problems of the Industry :

2.1 Total Dependence on Skilled Moulders :

This is the most serious ailment of the industry needing urgent attention. In the absence of an affordable and/or proven alternative, brick manufacturers have to totally depend upon skilled moulders for their livelihood. In addition to paying an advance of upto Rs. 15,000.00 per moulder family, they have to be provided with shelter, firewood, etc. and looked after well. The advance is normally never recovered at the end of a season. To improve brick quality, if more stress is laid on clay preparation, the moulders get less time to mould bricks and the production suffers heavily. If moulding is stressed, clay preparation is neglected, resulting in more breakages. Absenteeism, sickness, physical disability, etc. aggravate the situation further. The lure of more money from nearby brick field owners makes many a moulders forget the existing contract ( including advance ) and accept fresh assignment(s).

2.2 Clay Shortage and Rising Fuel Cost :

Suitability of clay and other additives is solely decided by trial and error method and no laboratory testing is ever employed by Brick Field owners. Black cotton ( i.e. montmorillonite) and similar plastic soils are not considered suitable for brickmaking. Due to their stickiness, release of wet bricks from moulds becomes very difficult and pronounced drying shrinkage results in cracking and breakages.

Lime nodules are another poison to brickmaking. Lime ( i.e. limestone ) dissociates into quicklime ( CaO) and carbon-dioxide ( CO2) gas on firing. During cooling, fired bricks absorb moisture from atmosphere which reacts with quicklime to form hydrated lime (Ca(OH)2 ). The specific gravity of hydrated lime being much less than quicklime, the lime particles expand suddenly giving rise to disintegration or explosion of fired bricks. This experience has made brick manufacturers extra cautious about choice of raw materials. Only sedimentary ( or alluvial ) clay or surface soil of reddish, yellowish or greyish colour is selected for brickmaking. Clay sources near big cities are quickly depleted and at times clay has to be brought in from as far as 25 to 30 kilometres distance by paying upto Rs. 900.00 per truck load. This increases the raw material cost substantially.

Fuel cost is normally 40 to 60 % of the cost of production. At places far away from coal mines, the incidence of transportation cost is almost twice that of the material being transported, which is an absurd situation ! Where firewood is traditionally used as fuel for burning bricks, its cost is increasing by leaps and bounds every year, rendering it uneconomical.

Although costs of raw material and fuel are going up day by day, consumers are reluctant to pay increased prices in the same proportion, since the quality of bricks is not improving at all. This is adversely affecting the profitability of the brick industry.

2.3 Opposition from Environmentalists and Social Workers :

It is often said that nature takes about 70 years to make an inch of top soil. Use of this precious surface soil for brickmaking, though considered desirable by both sellers and buyers of the material, destroys it permanently. This adversely affects the acrage of cultivable land, the flora and fauna supported by it and the environment around. Under Minor Minerals Act, Government charges royalty to brick manufacturers at the rate of Rs. 14.00 to Rs. 50.00 per 100 cft of clay. This is expected to take care of cost of reclamation of the affected land. However, in practice, the reclamation cost is tens of thousands of times more than the royalty being levied. Use of firewood for brick burning, which leads to large scale tree felling, and the air pollution created by the industry in the form of dust, smoke and odour, also attract stiff opposition from environmentalists.

Incidence of bonded labour, ill treatment meted out to animals engaged in pugging / material handling, etc., evokes considerable uproar from social workers.

2.4 Absence of Appropriate / Sustainable Technology Developers / Providers

Except in South India, especially Kerala, use of moulding machines has not been much of a commercial success as yet. This has largely been due to inadequacy of techno-commercial investigation and lack of proper financial and mental preparation on the part of entrepreneurs employing mechanisation. Every rupee of fixed investment added into a project attracts additional repairs and maintenance, depreciation and interest costs. Unless this additional cost is offset by a proportionate increase in production, or savings in fuel and manpower costs, the cost of production increases. Under conditions of increased production cost, to maintain profitability, the consumers should be willing to pay more for better quality bricks. This is not normally so, at least in the initial stages of the project, leading to sickness / closure of the unit. Also, most of the time, selection and application of technology and machinery is faulty.

In short, three things need be carefully considered before an investment decision is made :

· Entrepreneur's investment capacity
· Nature and extent of locally available raw materials and fuels
· Market response

Absence of competent and dedicated people / agencies who can successfully develop and implement appropriate / sutainable technologies under varying socio-economic conditions, is the main cause of concern to the brick industry.

3.0 Impact of MoEF's Brick Regulation '96 :

3.1 Ban on Open Clamps and Moving Chimney Kilns :

The Government of Maharashtra has gone a step further and put a blanket ban on operation of all open clamps and moving chimney kilns in the State after 31st December,1997( since extended to 30th June, 1999 ). Maharashtra Pollution Control Board has issued a Circular ( dated 18-02-1997 ) to all District Collectors asking them not to issue Brick Permissions to entrepreneurs not following the said Brick Regulation and the following Guidelines :

a) The site of the brick kiln should be at a safe distance from human settlement, village and highway ( about 500 metres). MoEF, as per its Guidelines, has suggested 500 metres as 'safe distance' for setting up an industrial unit.

b) Low-ash coal ground below 10 mm size should be used in brick kilns. Mechanical stokers should be used for feeding coal for its optical use.

c) Noise pollution should be avoided in mechanised brick plants.

d) Ash layer on kiln top should be covered with fired bricks or roof tiles. 'Pucca' internal roads should be constructed and water should be frequently sprayed over dusty areas to contain pollution in the vicinity of brick kilns.

e) A cavity wall should be constructed around trench kilns and ash be filled in the cavity. Double-layer mild steel feed-hole caps filled with asbestos should be used to avoid heat losses.

f) Fuels like rubber, plastic, harmful chemicals, etc. that give rise to foul-smelling or poisonous gases / fumes, should not be used in brick kilns.
3.2 Fallout of Brick Regulation '96 :

Maharashtra being one of the foremost industrialised States in the country, its entrepreneurs are generally not in favour of area and labour-intensive firing operations like that of the trench kilns. Also, they are averse to 'seasonal' and low-technology methods of production. Therefore, even the existing moving chimney kiln owners are in search of appropriate environment-friendly and fuel-efficient kilns and not in a mood to change over to fixed chimney / high draught kiln designs. In view of this, small manufacturers may prefer Vertical Shaft Brick Kilns of upto 10,000 bricks per day capacity working year round and big ones may straight away go in for automated Hoffmann or Tunnel kilns. There is also a visible trend to go in for production of sand-lime, flyash-lime and other cured / autoclaved Calcium Silicate Bricks, avoiding the firing operation altogether.

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