Map of Rajshahi district.
Over 90 illegal brick kilns are operating in Rajshahi district, posing a serious threat to the environment and public health.
Neither the local administration nor the Ministry of the Environment have yet taken effective action against them.
According to the Rajshahi DoE office, there are 125 brick kilns in nine upazilas in the district, of which only 26 have valid and up-to-date papers.
In accordance with Section 8 of the Brick Making and Kiln Setting (Control) Act 2013, no brick kiln may be set within one kilometer of agricultural land, residential areas and educational institutions, while Section 4 of the Act states that no brick kiln may be operated without DoE authorization.
However, most brick kilns in Rajshahi are set up next to bazaars, cultivated lands, fruit gardens and other establishments.
Due to harmful gas emissions from brick kilns, seasonal fruits including banana and mango and crops are damaged as most of them burn wood as fuel.
A brick kiln owner in Paba upazila, wishing not to be named, told this correspondent that he would suffer losses if charcoal was fired in the brick kilns.
“Coal prices have doubled in a year while the brick price has remained almost the same,” he said.
Saber Ali, a farmer from Bagmara upazila, told New Age on Thursday that the smoke emitted from the Cha KE brick kiln has long affected fruit production.
“But this time the production of paddy and cropland of one hundred acres was totally destroyed by the poison gas,” he said.
The farmer said toxic gas that had accumulated in the bricks’ combustion chamber was released on Wednesday.
“As soon as the gas is released, the air in the region heats up and has scorched the semi-ripe paddy, vegetable fields and cropland as this toxic air spreads through the region,” he said. said, adding that the health of residents in the area were also at risk.
Farmers in the village of Dighalkandi under Puthia upazila claimed that toxic smoke from the SBF Super Bricks Field had damaged 84 mango trees and 500 banana trees in four orchards in the area.
They also alleged that the owner of the brick kilns often threatened them with dire consequences and sometimes filed bogus complaints against them when they protested the pollution.
Farmers said they have repeatedly lodged complaints with the Agricultural Extension Department and the local government for taking action against the brick kilns, but to no avail.
Ms Manzur Hossain, a professor in the Department of Botany at Rajshahi University, said the smoke from the brick kilns causes ash particles to come out and fall onto the leaves of the tree to form a lining called carbon shoot. The carbon shoots stop photosynthesis processes and the leaves of the tree die.
Rajshahi Fruit Research Center chief scientist Khandaker Habibul Alam said they had examined leaves and fruits from Dighalkandi village and found that they were damaged by toxic fumes from brick kilns.
When contacted, Kabir Hossain, deputy director of the Rajshahi DoE office, told New Age that they were campaigning against illegal brick kilns and taking punitive action. Further measures would be taken after the Eid holidays on the instructions of higher authorities.
According to a report by the Rajshahi DoE office, the first and main problem in the implementation of environmental laws is the lack of skilled manpower.
“We have repeatedly hit the high authorities asking for labor by letters, but the calls have not been answered,” he added.
Rajshahi’s deputy commissioner, Abdul Jalil, was unavailable for comment despite repeated attempts.
Sadrul Islam, chairman of the Rajshahi Brick Kiln Owners Association, said the process of registering a brick kiln was long and complicated.
“After a huge investment in the project, the legalization process is taking a long time. Some of us started producing brick kilns without permission or license due to legal complications,” he said.
Sadrul Islam said they want to do business legally and urged the relevant authorities to stop the harassment to obtain license and permission.