The environment and the biodiversity in the south-western region of the country face damage and pollution due to illegal brick kilns built on the locality as well as along the river banks.

In addition, people in the region are at serious health risk from the smoke, gas and dust emitted from these brick kilns, according to experts.

Besides, the Rupsha River is shrinking; its direction is changing. Although these brick kilns are operated freely, the higher authorities are silent.

However, these illegal kilns were not demolished even though fines were imposed through mobile courts from time to time.

According to the locals, they are suffering from variouscdiseases such as cold, cough and respiratory problem due to the toxic smoke of the brick kiln near their house. The yields from the trees and lands are also declining.

According to the list of the Department of Environment (DoE), there are 63 legal brickfields in Rupsha, 20 in Dumuria, five in Batiaghata, nine in Terkhada and three in Dighalia. There are allegations that the brick kilns are enlisted by the DoE even after being built in a densely populated area within 200 meters from the educational institutions.

Besides, UNB correspondent came to know that more than 50 brick kilns have been illegally built in Paikgacha, Fultala and Koira including those five upazilas. There are allegations that the local administration is not playing a significant role in demolishing those even after they have been removed from the list of the DoE.

Bricks are being burnt in 14 kilns including ARB Bricks, Jamuna Bricks, SKB Bricks at Paikgacha upazila. None of these are listed on the DoE list and are being operated in the densely populated areas and on agricultural lands. But, the upazila administration said seven kilns have licenses in this upazila. Meanwhile, six brick kiln owners in this upazila were fined Tk 2,40,000 this year.

There are several kilns including Fultala Super Bricks, JB Bricks, United Bricks, Prince Bricks, Ekota Bricks, Khanjahan Ali Bricks. Most of the brick kilns at Rupsha, Dumuria and Terkhada have been built on the bank of the river.

The ABM brick kiln is built in 500 meters of the densely populated area that includes Koira Upazila Health Complex and educational institutions.

On the other hand, according to Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) sources, 50 brick kilns have been built by occupying the two banks of Bhadra, Hari, Shailmari, Atai and Atharobeki rivers of Khulna. Of these, 18 kilns are in Rupsha upazila, 18 in Dumuria, 11 in Terkhada and three in Dighalia.

Locals alleged the kiln owners took possession of the river bank as well as the surrounding lands of the government. Bricks are being made at those kilns by cutting the soil of the sandbars of the area, forcing the river to change its direction.

Although the list of these illegal kilns has been compiled, the eviction process has come to a halt. Meanwhile, the High Court ordered the eviction of 14 brick kilns built on the bank of the Bhadra and Hari rivers in Dumuria upazila in 60 days.

On December 14, a HC bench of Justice Justice Justice Md. Mozibur Rahman Miah and Justice Md. Kamrul Hossain Mollah passed the order following a writ petition filed by Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh (HRPB).

Regarding the implementation of the court order, Dumuria Upazila Nirbahi Officer Md Abdul Wadud said, "We have demarcated the governmental land of the river with red flags."

The kiln owners were also asked not to operate brick kilns within that area. Besides, a fine of Tk 3.5 lakh has been imposed on those four kilns this year.

Md. Maruf Billah, inspector of the DoE, said that the list of legal brick kilns has been published on the website. The work of conducting mobile courts is going on to demolish the illegal ones.

In this regard, Advocate Babul Hawlader, Coordinator of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) Khulna, said that the residents, especially the children and the elderly people, here are suffering from respiratory and heart problems due to harmful smokes from the illegal brick kilns. Crops and plants are being destroyed due to the smoke.

The fish in the river are being destroyed. "Above all, air pollution has a negative impact on the entire ecosystem, including humans," he added.

Ashraful Alam, executive engineer of the BWDB in Khulna, said a list of illegal occupants had already been compiled and sent to the deputy commissioner's office. If they do not demolish the kilns themselves, eviction activities will be conducted with the help of the district administration.

"Action will be taken against all illegal occupants in phases. And, work will be done to evict the BIW occupants," the official warned.

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