The 2017 Climate and Clean Air Award for Individual Achievement has gone to Sameer Maithel, Founder and Director of Greentech Knowledge Solutions, for his work to reduce black carbon emissions from brick kilns in India.
By helping install cleaner, more efficient brick kiln technologies, Dr Maithel has demonstrated that significant emission reductions of black carbon can be achieved by retrofitting and converting existing kilns, benefitting workers, owners, and the environment.
The Indian brick industry consumes around 30 million tons of coal and 15 million tons of biomass per year at 250,000 enterprises - often in clusters near cities - to produce 200 - 250 billion bricks per year. Solid-fired clay bricks represent more than 80 percent of the market for India's walling materials. The demand for clay-fired bricks is expected to increase in the next three decades, as floor space in India's residential and commercial sectors rapidly grows.
Inefficient fuel combustion from this industry has led to wasted energy, as well as large emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), large and small particulate pollution (PM10 and PM2.5), including black carbon, and other gases. Increased demand for bricks means thoughtful and systematic planning is needed to reduce the pollution - and black carbon - footprint from this industry.
Work by the University of Illinois, Mountain Air Engineering, Greentech Knowledge Solutions and Enzen to measure emissions and energy use at 20 brick kilns, has found that retrofitting and converting existing kilns - Fixed Chimney Bull's Trench Kilns - into improved kiln (zigzag firing) reduced coal consumption, CO2 emissions, particulate emissions, and improved brick quality.
Dr. Maithel and his team work with brick entrepreneurs and their associations to develop and deliver training programs on construction and retrofits, and have reached over 5000 brick producers. Three hundred entrepreneurs have voluntarily switched to better brick kiln technology, based on expectations of verified, improved performance. They are launching BrickGuru a web knowledge and training portal that uses mobile phone technology to provide guidance and information to thousands and thousands of brick producers, brick users and policy makers.
Ellen Baum of the Climate and Health Research Network said: "Sameer Maithel approaches each aspect of his work with commitment and curiosity that extends well beyond the technical and into every aspect of the operation - training, advocacy, and financing. He can see what needs to be done in multi-dimensions, well into the future, can lay out a route to get there, and continuously brings along skilful partners."
Award jury member Youba Sokona, Vice-Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said: "These awards represent real work being done now. Each winner is operating within their local contexts to produce benefits to people and the environment in ways that can be replicated and spread globally."
Sameer Maithel's professional work over last 25 years has been in the area of sustainable buildings. He has worked on environment friendly industrial processes to produce building materials, like bricks; design of buildings that provide better thermal comfort to occupants and requires less energy for air-conditioning; and application of solar energy in buildings to generate thermal or electrical energy. The work has spanned design, technology development and field testing, developing and managing pilot programmes, conducting awareness campaigns and trainings, and contributing in policy development.
Sameer's association with brick industry started at IIT Bombay, where his M Tech and PhD thesis were on the topic of "Energy Utilization in Brick Kilns". Over past 25 years, he has contributed in the monitoring of performance of brick kilns, development of environment-friendly brick kiln technologies, training and capacity building of brick makers and workers, policy advocacy and formulation of environment regulations in India and other developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Some of the key contributions of GKSPL over last five years in brick sector have been: benchmarking of energy and environment performance of brick kilns (in association with IIT, Bombay and University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign); development of training programmes for brick industry entrepreneurs and workers; contributing in the formulation of emission standards and regulations for brick kilns. Along with Prayag Clay Products Pvt Ltd, GKSPL runs regular training programme on cleaner brick production for brick entrepreneurs at Varanasi. GKSPL is also working with the state governments of Bihar, Tripura and with the Centre for Science and Environment in the National Capital Region, to create awareness about cleaner brick production technologies.
For his work in the brick sector, he was awarded Climate and Clean Air Coalition inaugural award at the Climate Conference at Bonn in 2017.