There come some moments in any government’s tenure when it has to take some harsh decisions. These days when the smog or air pollution has reached critical levels in Lahore and adjacent areas, the Punjab government has had to take some radical steps to improve air quality. One such intervention in this regard was the government’s earlier decision to close down old fashioned brick kilns for more than two months. Unfortunate to note that even Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) prefers political considerations to the environment, as its capitulation before the kiln owners’ pressure shows.

Brick kilns across South Asia have a global warming impact equivalent to that of all passenger cars in the United States. The air pollution from these kilns kills tens of thousands of people each year as a result of respiratory and cardiovascular disease, as one study reveals. Moreover, the new irritant is the smog that is caused by these brick kilns. There are around 20,000 brick kilns in Pakistan. Many are located around urban areas and contribute significantly to air pollution. The government knows this fact as it had decided to close down such kilns in the Red Zone comprising districts of Lahore and Gujranwala.

Furthermore, the government needs to understand that Pakistan’s brick sector is highly unregulated. Brick kilns are recognised as one of the largest stationary sources of black carbon. It, along with iron and steel production, contributes 20% of total worldwide black carbon emissions. The government has to start somewhere. If it capitulates on brick kilns front, it will capitulate on other fronts as well. True the government does not want to further marginalise the labour in this sector, but that does not mean that the kiln sector should be left the way it is. The government needs to formulate a win-win strategy for the environment and those who earn their bread from brick kilns.