POST TIME: 12 December, 2016 00:00 00 AM
PWD still not using hollow bricks: Muhith

PWD still not using hollow bricks: Muhith

Finance minister AMA Muhith yesterday alleged that the Public Works Department (PWD) is not following his instruction to use eco-friendly hollow bricks. “When I took over the ministry in 2009, I instructed the PWD to use hollow bricks instead of top-soil bricks. But it is still not following this instruction,” Muhith said in his at the ‘Green Brick Convention 2016’ programme, organised by the Bangladesh Infrastructure Finance Fund Limited (BIFFL) at a city hotel.
The programme was chaired by BIFFL executive director and chief executive officer (CEO) SM Formanul Islam. Among others, Bangladesh Bank (BB) governor Fazle Kabir, Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) secretary Suraiya Begum, and Asian Development Bank (ADB) country director Kazuhiko Higuichi addressed the convention. Environment specialist Dr A. Atiq Rahman made the keynote presentation at the convention.
Muhith said using eco-friendly hollow bricks offers tax exemption benefits, but people still do not use them because of a lack of awareness. He emphasised the need to improve quality of infrastructure and encouraged the use of hollow bricks in the construction sector. Muhith added that there is scope to use hollow bricks in construction projects covering up to 50 per cent of the development budget. Fazle Kabir said the BB has a fund of Tk. 2 billion for renewable energy and eco-friendly projects. He also said that the government has plans to continue green financing. The ADB and the Bangladesh government yesterday signed a USD 50-million loan agreement to improve the capacity and safety of the railway system in Bangladesh.
Mohammad Mejbahuddin, senior secretary of the Economic Relations Division (ERD), and Kazuhiko Higuchi signed the agreement on behalf of Bangladesh and ADB respectively at a ceremony at the ERD office in Sher-e-Bangla Nagar.
Kazuhiko Higuchi said the ADB is providing USD 50 million in loans to the BB for environmental conservation through the construction of more energy-efficient brick kilns in the country.
The BB will, in turn, lend this amount to participating financial institutions (FIs), he added.
The FIs provide loans to brick-makers seeking to upgrade their existing kilns to more environment-friendly ones or to those looking to build environment-friendly kilns from scratch.
“Brick-making is one of the industries that generate large amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases,” said Kazuhiko Higuchi.
The brick sector comprises around one per cent of the Bangladesh economy.
However, it is highly polluting, burning at least six million tonnes of coal and emitting about 9.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year, largely because most of Bangladesh’s estimated 5,000 brick fields use the highly polluting fixed-chimney kilns.
 A fixed-chimney kiln uses 240 tonnes of coal and emits 582 tonnes of carbon dioxide per million bricks produced. One the other hand, the cleanest tunnel chimney uses only 100–120 tonnes of coal and produces 291 tonnes of carbon dioxide.
BIFFL organised the ‘Green Brick Convention 2016’ in the capital on 11 December 2016, as part of its nationwide awareness campaign for the country’s sustainable development. Aiming to focus on the environmental hazards of conventional chimney-based brick kilns, as well as the environmental friendliness of tunnel kiln technology in the brick manufacturing sector, the convention brought together environmental experts, consultants and solutions providers, entrepreneurs, financiers, officials of different ministries, and development partners.
SM Formanul Islam said: “There is no denying the urgency of reducing environmental pollution and social hazards being generated by the traditional brick kilns in Bangladesh. According to the Department of Environment’s estimates, there are around 7,000–8,000 traditional brick kilns in the country, which cause about 37 per cent of the environmental pollution in Bangladesh.”
Formanul Islam also said the BIFFL has been working in this sector for the last two or three years and has already invested in seven auto-brick projects, with 20 more in the pipeline.
Recently, the Bangladesh government has begun to take this issue seriously and has allocated a fund of Tk. 1 billion in the 2016–17 Budget for the wide-scale expansion of eco-friendly bricks.
In the convention, the BIFFL handed over its 2015 dividend of Tk. 82.00 crore to the finance minister. At present, the paid-up capital of the organisation is Tk. 2,010 crore.