The government has phased out the use of burnt bricks for the construction of its infrastructures as this was contributing to deforestation and degradation of the environment.
In an interview with Malawi News Agency (Mana) in Lilongwe on Thursday, Victoria Kachimera, Deputy Director of Environmental Affairs in the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, said between 2015 and 2016 the department, in liaison with the National Construction Industry Council of Malawi (NCIC), developed a cabinet paper proposing the phasing out of burnt bricks in the country.
“The basis of the cabinet paper was to reduce unsustainable and excessive harvesting of trees for firewood to be used to cure [burnt] bricks for building. It was expected that phasing out burnt bricks would have two main impacts. First and foremost, it would curb deforestation and environmental degradation thereby promoting sustainable economic development of the country.
“The alternatives that have already been successfully piloted in the country include stabilized soil blocks, hydra-form blocks, cement blocks, concrete blocks, engineering bricks, prefabricated wall sheets, and stones and bricks burnt without using firewood. Many of these are also considered more durable because quality control is more assured,” she said.
Kachimera added that this could be achieved through the regeneration of degraded forest resources and catchment areas; reduction in soil erosion, siltation of water bodies and flooding of rivers; increase in biodiversity and aesthetic value of the environment; and reduction in air pollution and improved air quality.
Secondly, it is expected this would enhance the quality and durability of buildings in the country.
NCIC updated its regulations to promote the use of sustainable, energy efficient and environmentally friendly construction materials and technologies. The regulations were already gazetted and are in use.
Kachimera explained that the implementation plan for the cabinet paper made several recommendations for various stakeholders in recognition of the fact that the phasing out of the use of burnt bricks would be implemented in collaboration with various government ministries, departments and agencies who would have a specific role to play.
“NCIC is required to regulate construction practices and develop or update regulations to promote the use of sustainable, energy efficient and environmentally friendly construction materials and technologies, promote adoption and use of sustainable, energy efficient and environmentally friendly alternative walling materials through public awareness campaigns, undertake skills transfer for builders, develop a training module on alternative building and promote research and best practices in construction materials and technologies,” she added.
President of Association of Environmental Journalists in Malawi, Mathews Malata, commended the government for the policy change.
“We encourage the government to work hand-in-hand with the NCIC in making sure that all constructors are abiding by the new law and creating ways and means to see that everyone uses cement blocks or other environmentally friendly materials,” he said.