Air pollution worsened by illegal brick kilns


One in every three brick kilns of the country is illegal, without the required clearance or any environment-friendly technology. There are over 3000 such brick kilns in the country, according to a list drawn up by the department of environment.

These brick kilns are a major source of air pollution. According to the global air pollution monitoring organisation AirVisual, on Thursday afternoon Dhaka ranked second among 91 cities with the worst air pollution in the world. Over the entire month Dhaka has mostly topped this list of cities with the worst air pollution.

At an inter-ministerial meeting on Monday, discussions were held on steps to be taken to bring this air pollution under control. The next day the Supreme Court ordered that all illegal brick kilns in Dhaka and four adjacent districts be shut down within 15 days.

The government had previously taken a decision to shut down all brick kilns that did not have environmental technology after 2015. But according to the department of environment, of the 8033 brick kilns in the country, 2837 do not have any environment-friendly technology in place. And 2513 do not have the required environmental clearance. And over 3000 neither are environment-friendly nor have the clearance. These brick factories have been creating serious air pollution over the past three years.

State minister for environment, forests and climate change, Habibun Nahar, has said, “The government is taking stern measures against the illegal brick kilns. However, development work is in full swing during the dry season and a great number of bricks are required. Closure of all illegal brick kilns at the same time may have a negative impact on the development work. The government will coordinate between development and pollution control.”

 Most illegal brick kilns in Dhaka 

According to the department of environment, the most illegal brick kilns have sprouted up in Dhaka division. There are 688 such kilns without any environmental clearance. Next is Chattagram division with 525 such brick kilns. In Chattagram district alone there are 418 brick kilns of which 146 do not have environmental clearance. And 271 have not put any environmental technology in place. In Khulna division there are 300 such environmentally unfriendly brick factories, in Rajshahi division 300 and in Rangpur division 374.

In various places of Gazipur city corporation area, there are brick kilns established in the vicinity of schools, colleges, madrasas and residential areas. And yet when the Gazipur city corporation was formed, licences, environmental clearance and the deputy commissioner’s approval were no longer issued to brick factories in the area.

A visit to Baktabali in Naryanganj on Friday saw smoke spiralling from the brick kilns. A brick factory worker said that every day 3.5 tonnes of coal was burnt in their factory for 30,000 bricks. Speaking about the black smoke being spewed out, the workers said for the first one to five minutes after the coal is lit, black smoke is emitted. Then the black smoke subsides after that.

Environmentalists say, 90 per cent of the brick kilns in the country are illegal. The environment department has not carried out an assessment of how environmental-friendly the approved factories are, despite having clearance.

Chief executive of the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) Rizwana Hassan told Prothom Alo, there are glitches even in the so-called environmental technology. There is need for an overall study about how far the brick factories are contributing to the air pollution. She said, “Until these brick factories are made environment-friendly, we will not be free of air pollution.”

(Gazipur correspondent Masud Rana and Narayanganj correspondent Mujibul Huq contributed to this report.)

* This report appeared in the print edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir