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Ecology and agriculture in jeopardy

Firewood-based brick kilns sprouting across Sirajganj

112 out of 119 run sans license, or even environmental clearance certificate

OUR CORRESPONDENT | February 13, 2024 00:00:00

Photo shows an illegal brick kiln in Ullapara upazila of Sirajganj district burning firewood violating existing rules — FE photo

BOGURA, Feb 12: Unauthorised brick kilns are springing up in a large number in nine upazilas of Sirajganj district, much to the detriment of the local ecology and agriculture.

Flouting High Court directives, at least 112 brick kilns, out of the total 119, have been set up illegally in different places of Sirajganj district

The mushrooming growth of the brick kilns, which are mostly run by using firewood, has put the environment in nine upazilas of the district at severe risk.

Meanwhile, trees and crops in many fields in surrounding areas have been completely or partially damaged due to negative impact of the black smokes emitted by the kilns.

Though the unauthorised brick kilns are operating under the nose of the authorities concerned, there is no headache of the district administration as there is an allegation that those are doing business managing some unscrupulous officials.

According to environmentalists, toxic smokes billowing out of the chimneys of the unauthorised brick kilns is destroying balance of the environment and spreading several diseases including asthma, bronchitis, eye infection, goitre (swollen throat), lungs and lever cancer.

As per the Environment Protection Act, 2010 and the Brick Kiln Control Act, 2013, installation of brick kiln will not be allowed within one kilometer radius of residential areas, educational institutions, hills, forests and wetlands. Installation of brick kilns on agricultural land has also been declared illegal. But brick kilns are being built in the district going against the existing rules, sources said.

District administration sources said only seven brick kilns out of 119 have license taken from the Deputy Commissioner's (DC) office while the rest 112 have been running sans license or approval of the authorities concerned. Many of them have been continuing operation after submitting an application to the DC office while many have not obtained the clearance certificate from the Department of Environment as yet.

Some of those who took approval earlier have not yet renewed their licenses simply because of negligence.

Most of them are local influential quarters, including union parishad members, chairmen and politicians.Replying to a query, Mir Mohammad Mahbubur Rahman, deputy commissioner of Sirajganj said, "We have already stopped production in an illegal brick kiln after conducting drive. The operation against the illegal brick kilns will continue."

"None will be spared, if anyone operates brick kilns violating directives, drastic action would be taken against them," he warned.

It is to be mentioned that the government issued a ban on providing license to brick kilns about two years ago following a directive of the High Court.

The court also asked the DCs to take action in this regard. But some influential people receiving support from unscrupulous officials of the Deputy Commissioner's office and local Department of Environment office have been running such brick kilns in exchange for big amount of bribe.

As a result, agitation is brewing among the local residents over the matter.

During a recent visit to Raiganj, Kazipur, Ullapara, Shahzadpur and Tarash upazilas of the district, this correspondent found that, influential people have been running brisk business by installing Bangla Bhata or locally-made brick kilns.

Height of most kilns is below 120 feet while width is rather below the standard size.

Besides, most of the brick kilns are burning woods indiscriminately instead of coals.

Many farmers complained that trees and paddy fields are getting almost damaged due to emission of black smoke from these unauthorised brick kilns.

Production of different crops has reduced compared to the previous years due to installation of illegal brick kilns on the arable lands, and even in urban areas.

Brick kiln owners are using top soil of the cultivable lands destroying fertility.

If the trend continues, food security may be threatened in future, experts opined.

Seeking anonymity, an official of the district administration said a good number of brick kilns including KBM Bricks, SNC Brick, SSB Bricks, LTS Bricks, SBT Bricks, MRS Bricks, Sarkar Bricks, Sun Bricks, MRS Bricks, ABS Bricks and MMH Bricks in Ullapara and Shahzadpur upazilas of the district have been running business ignoring several warnings. They have no approval.

Kamruzzaman Babu, former General Secretary of Brick Kiln Owners Association in Ullapara said, "District administration follows some rules in providing license to brick kilns. Of them, obtaining environmental clearance certificate from the Environment Department is a must. But, there is a problem in getting clearance certificate from the Environment Department. As a result, we face problem to run business in a legal way."

Abdul Gafur, assistant director of the Department of Environment in Sirajganj, said, "Official activities of the Environment Department started in Sirajganj two years ago. We could not conduct any survey on the number of brick kilns located in the district as we are still facing manpower crisis in our office." "Action would be taken about it after completion of a survey," he added.

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