Who does not love to walk in the light of the sunset in the afternoon? But the mechanics and the pollution have completely diminished our love. There is no place in Dhaka city where people can breathe clean air. About 33 million people die every year in the world due to air pollution. About 75 percent of these deaths are due to heart attacks and the remaining 25 percent for pulmonary disease. Air pollution levels are highest in Asia. India is at the top of the pollution chart, and Bangladesh has taken over the next position. According to a report from the Health Effects Institute, there are 1,220,400 people died in Bangladesh annually due to air pollution. Pollution, from the brick kilns is spreading around the Dhaka city. There are more than 4500 brick kilns around the Dhaka. As a result, the air gas becomes full with pollutant. According to the Department of Environment, 58 percent of air pollution in Dhaka caused brick kilns (2017).
Modern world is using concrete, aluminum sheets, plastics, steel and metal materials for the construction of multi-storied buildings while Bangladesh is depending on bricks for construction. These bricks are made from the soil which is an important element of nature, and in most cases, it is taken from the agricultural land. The brick kiln owners forced the farmer to dig the fertile soil from the upper layer which is very important for the cultivation. In Bangladesh, the brick factory owners usually choose time for making bricks from October to March.
There are about 12,000 brick-making companies in Bangladesh. Most of the brick kilns are working in the dry season when the amount of pollution is also high. Generally, half million tons of clay are required to make one million bricks which come from the fertile soil or topsoil. The topsoil has all the ingredients needed for the crop nourishment and it takes hundreds of years to replenish. Although burning wood in brick kilns are legally prohibited, but wood, charcoal, fuel oil and even used tires are burned. Again, one million bricks are nearly required for 20 tons of coal to burn. In our country, tree plantation is a kind of social movement, but we are not getting any benefit due to huge burning of wood from the forest. Burning extra wood and coal lead to produce dust, carbon monoxide, sulfur and nitrogen oxides which pollute the atmosphere. The pollution levels are so high that nearby trees are also getting killed. The eye sight visual has decreased due to dust.
Law: Notwithstanding anything contained in the law, without obtaining a license from the District Administrator no person can prepare bricks in a brick field. Provided license will not be required in the preparation for concrete compressed block bricks. No person can dig or collect soil from pond, canal, bill, inlet, dighi, river, haor-bower, grazing or fallen areas to prepare a brick.
Punishment: If any person makes bricks without obtaining a license from the district administrator of the district of brick field, then he/she shall be punished with imprisonment not more than one year or with fine which may extend to one lakh taka or both. If a person uses brick raw material by digging or collecting soil from farmland or hill to prepare bricks; without the permission from the appropriate authorities, cut or collect soil from the pond or canal or beel or inlet or dighi or river-or haor-baor or fall, he/she shall be punished with imprisonment not less than two years or with fine which may extend to two lakh taka or with both.
Mitigation Plan: The Department of Environment and the district administration will identify the drum brick kilns and they are immediately liable by monitoring in the field level. It is urgent to bring the relevant people under the law and take proper steps. In addition, canceling the license of those who continue their work, even on the areas banned by the government. Allowing wood as a fuel, users should be punished with maximum punishment. Besides, it is necessary to take the environmental compensation from the brick field, which is not yet converted into advanced tectonics with bricks in permanent bricks at 120 feet in height.
To reduce the pollution in Brickfields, the use of advanced equipment is compulsory, and if it is strictly enforced by law, it will significantly contribute to reducing the amount of pollution. With this, the time has to be fixed for the conversion of the old inefficient bull’s trench kiln into Hoffman’s kiln. In this case, training or cost-effective manuals can be arranged for the construction and management of Hoffman system with government subsidy. In order to establish a new brick field, old and inefficient bull’s trench method should be banned. If bricks are to be exported, then it should be done by producing environmental friendly ways and setting a fair price for the environmental friendly manufacturing process. Besides, instead of burning bricks in the fires, it is necessary to create and initiate sand-lime bricks.
Prof. Dr. Ahmad Kamruzzaman Majumder, Chairman, Department of Environmental Science, Stamford University Bangladesh.