Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Brick kilns posing threat to environment

The operation of brick kilns, one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, in the country continues unabated, flouting the laws as the authorities concerned have failed to address the issue properly. Under the laws, brick-fields cannot be set up within three kilometres of densely populated residential areas, commercial areas, parts of city corporation, municipality and upazila towns, reserved forest areas, waterbodies, agricultural lands and gardens. However, the growing demand of brick for housing and industrial purpose has forced brick kiln owners to set up brick fields across the country. According to sources, about 6,000-8,000 brick kilns are now in operation across the country. According to UNDP statistics, Bangladesh currently produces around 1,200 crore pieces of bricks every year as the country’s urbanisation rate has grown rapidly by seven to eight per cent. While many unregulated brick-fields use firewood partially or solely, most of these kilns are either poorly monitored or not monitored at all by the authorities concerned. According to some estimates, about 33 per cent of the fuel used in brick kilns comes from wood, despite prohibition by the government’s Brick Making (Control) Act 2012. Moreover, some are using low-quality coal imported from India. The Department of Environment (DoE), the regulatory body for brickfields, admits the severity of the impact of the brick kilns located around densely populated areas and arable land.
On March 31, 2003, the Department of Environment had issued a notification to kiln-owners and gave them three months’ notice to shift their brick-producing units outside the three-km zone to avoid legal measures. The notification had mentioned that licenses of faulty brick kilns would be cancelled.
Later, on May 22 this year, the cabinet approved, in principle, the draft of a fresh law on brick manufacturing. The new law states that maximum punishment for rule violation will be 10 years in prison and Tk. 1m as fine. It was earlier one year in jail and Tk. 50,000 as fine.
To curb pollution, the government has taken steps to use energy-efficient technologies. In September 2010, the government had given brick-makers two years to adopt energy-efficient and relatively cleaner technologies like Zigzag, Hybrid Hoffman Kiln (HHK) and Vertical Shaft Brick Kiln (VSBK).
According to DoE sources, a total of 6,356 authorised brick kilns are operating in the country. Of them, only 1,101 brick fields have been converted into Zigzag, HHK and VSBK until June 2013.
Bangladesh Brick Manufacturing Owners’ Association sources said that about 25 per cent brick kilns have been converted to modern technology and efforts are going on in this regard. “As brick-field owners failed to convert to new technologies by March 2013, the government has decided to extend the deadline to June 30, 2014,” DoE director Md Abul Monsur said.
“The present political turmoil is causing much trouble to work smoothly. We hope we would be able to achieve the target by this time,” he added.
Abu Naser Khan, chairman of Paribesh Bacho Andolon (PABA) said, “Laws alone cannot stop setting up illegal brick kilns as there is a huge demand of bricks for housing and industrial purposes.”
“If we want to cut air pollution significantly due to the haphazard setting up of brick kilns, we have to take holistic approaches, including land zoning, alternative to bricks and change of the housing policy,” he added.
“We want development, but not at the cost of our environment. If we fail to take proper steps for housing policy, people will occupy lakes and agricultural land in future, which would present environmental hazards,” he noted.
A DoE official said brick-fields are not only burning firewood and polluting the air, but also destroying the environment by using alluvial top soils. “Such practice is seen all over the country. It is really hard for the department to monitor this due to the manpower shortage,” he added.
The brick-making industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in the country, with an estimated annual production of around Tk 8.66 bn. It is, however, one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the country as it produces six million tonnes of carbon-dioxide annually.

-With The Independent input

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