POST TIME: 19 January, 2019 00:00 00 AM
Brick kilns and pollution

Brick kilns and pollution

Bangladesh is developing at a rapid pace and the demand for bricks is also increasing. However, the millions of bricks while contributing to this forward thrust come at a heavy price. Hundreds of brick kilns–like the one shown in the front page of this newspaper yesterday–dotting the suburbs of the capital are contributing heavily to the worsening air pollution of the city. This is the season when brick-making is at its peak, dust and smoke from wood- and coal-fired kilns mix with clouds of other forms of air pollution and hangs over the city like fog. According to a study report these kilns while representing just one per cent of the country’s GDP — generate as much as 60 per cent of the particulate pollution in Dhaka.

Media reports suggest that very few of the brick kilns in Bangladesh follow proper design and environmental rules. And the consequences are for all to see. Experts say that these brick kilns are the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases in this country. Researchers have found dangerous airborne particulates at average levels are  more than 90 times greater than World Health Organisation-recommended levels. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people who live downwind from kilns are at an elevated risk for cardiovascular and respiratory disease. The top 10 causes of deaths in the country include lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and strokes -- all of which can be directly and indirectly linked to air pollution. The problem is too serious to be continually ignored.

It is difficult to understand how these illegal activities have been allowed to sprout under the very nose of the authorities who often put the blame on influential and unscrupulous brickfield owners, many of whom are believed to be operating without the approval of concerned authorities including the Department of Environment. According to the law of the land no brickfield can be set up within three kilometres of a residential or agricultural area but the restriction is seldom followed by owners.

There have been numerous media reports on the harmful effects of these brick kilns on human health, agriculture and environment, but the powers that be are apparently not bothered. The construction of kilns in violation of rules must be stopped immediately.