Despite the government’s steps to shut kilns down, influential kiln owners have kept them operational
The environment, public health, and farmlands of Gopalganj have come under threat because local influential people have established illegal brick kilns.
Locals have submitted written complaints to the offices of the Gopalganj deputy commissioner, and those affiliated, demanding the kilns be shut down.
According to the complaint, eight years ago, former Union Parishad (UP) chairman of Lohagara—in Norail district near Kashiani upazila of Gopalganj—Badar Khandokar, and his brother Babar Khandokar, grabbed 10 acres of government land in Char Kalna village under Kashiani upazila.
There, they established brick kilns without the permission of the Department of Environment.
Aside from using barrel chimneys, these brick kilns—erected in an extremely populated region—are also using wood as fuel, harming the nearby environment.
There are allegations against Badar and Babar that, through threats, they have forcefully grabbed the farmland of local farmers to use for kilns.
Even after a mobile court of the Department of Environment—with the help of the deputy commissioner—in 2016, fined kiln owners Tk50,000 and ordered a kiln be shut down, it was reopened by influential owners.
A teacher from Kalna village, Nader Ali Mia said: “According to section 465 of the Brick Manufacturing and Brick Kilns Establishment (Control) Act-2010, no brick kilns may be established within 3km radius of: residential areas, upazila, sadars, fruit orchards, farmland, forest land, and localities.
“However, Badar and Babar broke this law, and established kilns in a locality using farmland,” Nader said.
He added: “The use of barrel chimneys in these kilns is causing serious harm to the environment, arable land, and the human body.”
Farmer Abed Ali said: “We leased our land after receiving assurances that it will be used for farming. However, Badar and his brother Babar Khandokar later started using the land for brick kilns.”
A farmer from Char Kalna village in Kashiani upazila, Md Farid, said: “As the kilns were established beside farmland, it is becoming impossible to grow crops there.
“However, no one has the courage to say anything against the influential owners,” he said.
Speaking on this topic, UP Chairman of Lohagara Md Nazrul Islam told the Dhaka Tribune: “Owner of the kilns, Badar Khandokar, the former UP chairman, used his influence to grab government land, without any official approval.
“These kilns, which are causing harm to the surrounding environment and people, should be shut down.”
Talking to the Dhaka Tribune, Badar Khandokar admitted that he had not received any approval from the Department of Environment before establishing the brick kilns.
“I did not grab any farmland,” he said. “I just leased around 0.5 hectares of land from local farmers for 16 years and established a kiln.”
He claimed a vested quarter is trying to spread rumours against him to hamper his political career.
Researcher from private environmental organization Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies (BCAS) Bidhan Tikadar said: “There are risks of massive environmental degradation due to the establishment of brick kilns in populous region.”
“Crop production is reduced if there are brick kilns beside arable land,” said Kashiani upazila agricultural officer Rashmoy Mandol.
Upazila Nirbahi Officer of Kashiani upazila ASM Mainuddin said: “Two years ago, legal action was taken against the kilns; if they are still active, further action will be taken to shut them down.”