SA Affordable Housing March - April 2019 // Issue: 75 - Page 19

FEATURES of firing energy, with some using petrol or diesel to pump water. Very rarely is any form of electrical energy used on site. Relative to the formal sector, where production is not dictated to by weather, the informal sector uses a significantly higher amount of energy 3.33MJ/kg compared the formal sector’s 2.97MJ/Kg. The cost of purchasing energy sources are estimated by those surveyed to be as high as four fifths of the cost of production. Due to the small size of operations informal brickmakers are excluded from air pollution or emissions monitoring so numbers are hard to come by, but with the majority of energy supplied by coal there is little doubt that collectively it is unlikely to meet acceptable levels. Additionally, according to the report there is very little to no awareness around the issue of air quality with only 26% of respondents indicating that authorities had ever visited them, and then it was usually about water and not about air quality. Only 17% of respondents suggested that they would want to learn more about this topic. While there is a far stronger hope among informal brickmakers to learn about water resources and how to use them efficiently, according to the report none of the sites visited could indicate how much water is used and the majority said they used water that is pumped from rivers or streams. ‘The producers find that obtaining water for production is a challenge, but it is clear from the visits by authorities, as well as land degradation and subsequent erosion around water sources, rivers and streams, that this portion of the sector has a negative impact on the environment, more pointedly, regarding water sustainability,’ states the report. "This isn’t going away and people and the environment are suffering as a result." Regarding waste, without any form of mechanical crushing both the green waste as well as fired waste that runs at around 20% is mostly left in piles to degrade naturally as production areas move. There is some evidence that waste, such as macadamia shells from other waste streams is burned on site as a source of energy in a form of waste symbiosis. Sewerage waste treatment, plant water and sludge are also used and in one instance biomass in the form of chicken and cow manure was added. According to Volsteedt the unplanned and uncoordinated digging that takes place at an informal brickwork is probably the greatest threat to the environment. “Soil takes thousands of years to develop properly. Just like water our soil should belong to everyone, but a lot of it is lost to informal brickmakers who dig through it to reach the clay beneath with little regard for its own value,” he says. The report states, ‘Even though soil erosion from poor agricultural practices is evident at a large scale in these rural areas, the contribution towards loss of agricultural land and siltation of water ways from the clay brick production activities must be significant.’ “Usually you would look at a tiny niche industry like this (they only make up about 5% of the total clay brick