No respite from illegal brick kilns

It is alarming to know that at least 99 brick kilns in Brahmanbaria are operating illegally, posing serious threats to the environment and public health. A report by this daily states how these brick kilns have been set up beside bazaars, croplands, educational institutions and fruit gardens, and how their emissions are damaging seasonal crops. While the Department of Environment (DoE) claims that there are 181 brick kilns—some of them currently closed—in the nine upazilas of the district, the actual number is believed to be much higher.

Unfortunately, illegal operation of brick kilns is prevalent across many other districts in the country as well. For instance, two illegal brick kilns in Lalmonirhat, demolished by the DoE in February last year after protests from the local farmers, were found to have resumed their operations last month. The same happened in Barguna, where five demolished brick kilns began their operations again. Obviously, the Brick Making and Kiln Establishment (Control) Act, 2013 is not being enforced properly. Otherwise, so many brick kilns would not be able to operate without a licence, often flouting the rule of keeping a three–kilometre distance from residential or agricultural areas.

With Dhaka frequently being one of the cities with the worst air quality, are we pushing the rest of our country in the same direction?

Earlier this month, a team of experts presented pioneering research on the air quality of all 64 districts in the country (Brahmanbaria and Dhaka being among the 18 most polluted), citing brick kilns as a major polluter. They suggested shutting down the brick kilns as a short-term solution. But even before this study, it was a known fact how badly brick kilns were polluting our environment, with little intervention from the DoE.

We urge the government to take the threat posed by these brick kilns seriously. The DoE must recognise its crucial role in bringing down their number, and ensure that even those with a licence operate strictly within the bounds of the law. We can’t continue to allow them to harm our environment, agricultural prospects and, most importantly, the health of our citizens.

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