brickyards in nepal
In Nepal, where the world-renowned Himalayas are located, poverty continues to plague rural populations. The poverty rate in these regions is still around 35%. Due to a struggling agricultural industry, many are pushed to the cities, where they find jobs in less than desirable work conditions, such as the brickyards of Kathmandu.

The Brickyards in Nepal

During half the year, from late fall to early spring, laborers build thousands of bricks from the clay deposits found in Kathmandu. Many of the laborers are children, teenagers, women, and even the elderly. Whole families move into the brickyards in order to make a few dollars. The work is physically demanding and becomes dangerous near the kilns, where smokestacks bake the bricks and spew toxic chemicals into the air.

An estimated 750 brick factories are in operation in Nepal, but only a little over half of them are registered with the government. Due to lack of funds to enforce child labor laws, brickyards around Nepal still employ approximately 13,530 children in Kathmandu valley. Even more unfortunate, most families depend on their children to work in order to cover all of their expenses.

The Economic Angle

Several economic factors keep both the brickyards in operation and the families in bonded labor. First, construction remains one of the largest industries in Nepal, contributing NPR $55121 Million in 2018 to Nepal’s GDP. Brickyards in Nepal directly fuel this industry, and the government lacks legislative potency in order to reform brickyards’ working conditions. Second, middlemen often entice families to labor in brickyards with the false promise of good pay to get them through a dry season in the job market. In reality, families receive low pay for their work, which makes them unable to pay off their debts and forces them to stay in the brickyard, for years or possibly even generations.

Breaking the Cycle

The brickyards in Nepal present a raw picture of the cycle of poverty that still exists worldwide and exposes the structures and factors that keep families in economic bondage. While hopes of alleviating the situation seem dire, there are a variety of ways that nonprofit and activist organizations are mobilizing to alleviate the suffering in the brickyards in Nepal:

  1. Humanitarian: Ceramic Water Filter Solution is a company whose mission is to bring safe water home. One of their projects started in 2015 and 2016, has been to provide clean water to families working in brickyards in Nepal, where water is scarce. They provide many ways to volunteer, donate, and support their work on their website:
  2. Medical: Terres des Hommes collaborate with local partners to establish healthcare camps to provide aid, particularly to women and children. They have set up facilities in 20 brickyards in the districts of Kathmandu and Bhaktapur. This initiative supports workers by monitoring children’s diets and checking on workplace health conditions. To help with these programs in Nepal, there are a variety of options for people to donate and to volunteer on their website.
  3. Technical: For brickyard owners, one initiative, the Global Fairness’s Better Brick Nepal (BBN) program, could, at a minimum, improve the working conditions of their brickyards. The program aims at providing technical assistance to make brickmaking safer and more efficient. In 2017, the BBN project has extended to 40 kilns in 14 districts. Ultimately, those who have started the BBN hope to enforce standards that brickyard owners must comply with in order to operate profitable businesses.
  4. Political: A research and activist group, BloodBricks seeks to end the “modern slavery-climate change nexus” of the construction industry in countries like Cambodia, Nepal, and Pakistan. Their studies trace the injustice of the “booming” construction industry in these countries and seek to fight these issues through further advocacy and discussion.

Deep-Rooted Issues

There are many different ways organizations are placing pressure on the system of brickyards in Nepal. While the issue is complex, involving deep-rooted economic and political structures, this situation is worth fighting, as one way to combat poverty and suffering in Nepal. Additionally, solving this issue has broader implications for economic bondage in brickyards in other countries and bringing this issue to light has wide impacts in terms of advocacy and awareness.

Luke Kwong
Photo: Flickr

education in Cyprus

It is difficult for the Cyprus government to recognize the necessity of basic education in Cyprus when their Gross National Income (GNI) has decreased significantly from $32,560 in 2009 to $23,680 in 2016.

Cyprus is divided into two communities with separated laws and ideals. The Republic of Cyprus provides free basic education to children over age 3 or 4, whereas the Turkish Republic only allows children between ages 6 and 15 to access free education. Considering both communities make basic education accessible to the poor is a positive step forward.

However, one thing both communities agree upon is that child labour should not be completely eradicated, only monitored, so that children are working in acceptable conditions with an agreeable salary. Their laws state that only children 15 years and older are permitted to work any job, rather than attend school. It is also stated that a child must be at least 11 older in order to work after-school hours.

Although children in Cyprus are not being treated unfairly, allowing them to work is only encouraging them to drop out of school and feel as if education in Cyprus is not necessary or of any value.

UNICEF enforces that child labor worsens, or at least continues, the endless cycle of poverty by preventing children from receiving opportunities with higher pay and status. Although their education may be affordable for families, it is socially conditioned that the children must aid their family financially. Despite the opportunities that may be extended to them upon completing their education, many disregard the importance of education.

The denial of education is a threat to children’s basic human rights and puts Cyprus’s economy at risk with long-term consequences. Therefore, organizations like UNICEF are devoted to ending societally conditioned attitudes that permit child labour. They make the effort to bring awareness to the effects of disregarding basic education to countries like Cyprus.

Brianna White

Photo: Flickr

Brick Kilns in BangladeshIn South Asia, traditional brick kilns are known for both labor exploitation and the massive amount of pollutants they spew. A project sponsored by the World Bank Group is introducing new Hybrid Hoffman Kiln (HHK) technology into brick kilns in Bangladesh. The cleaner, more efficient kilns produce less pollution, better labor conditions and more stable income for workers.

Poor children who drop out of school to feed their families become a source of cheap labor for kiln owners in the northwestern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. These children often develop health problems as a result of long-term exposure to smoke and coal dust.

Along the same lines, an openDemocracy article published on July 21, 2016, revealed the cycle of debt and poverty generated by brick kilns in Pakistani Punjab.

Traditional fixed chimney kilns are also an environmental concern. According to the World Bank Group, an estimated 8,000 traditional kilns emit 10 million tons of carbon dioxide every year in Bangladesh alone.

The Bangladeshi HHK project, which began in 2008, has sought to address the many problems associated with traditional kilns. Thanks to financing and support from the World Bank Group and the Industrial and Infrastructure Development Finance Company Limited (IIDFC), there are now nine HHK brick kilns in Bangladesh.

HHK technology originated in Germany but has been modified to fit local needs. By recycling waste heat from the kiln and using a greener mix of coal and clay to burn the bricks, HHKs use only half as much coal as fixed chimney kilns, reducing pollution by 50 percent.

In addition to being environmentally friendly, the new brick kilns also have incredible economic benefits; their technology allows them to operate year-round. An HHK kiln can produce an average of 11 million more bricks per year than can a fixed chimney kiln. More efficient production means higher income for kiln workers.

Reduced pollution becomes an additional source of revenue for HHK kiln operators. By cutting carbon emissions, they receive certified carbon credits (CERs), which the World Bank Group’s Community Development Carbon Fund (CDCF) and the Danish government then purchase from them. Kiln owners must spend some of the money they earn from carbon credits on healthcare, better facilities and new safety measures.

The biggest problem with HHKs is the price tag. Building an HHK kiln costs 15 times as much as building a traditional one. It will take an estimated $3 billion to construct 1000 HHKs. However, their many environmental and economic benefits make these improved brick kilns a worthwhile investment.

Philip Katz

Photo: Flickr