Flouting the government directive to switch to more energy-efficient and environment-friendly methods, at least 32% of the brick kilns located in the Chittagong division continue to operate using conventional methods that are harmful for the environment.
The Department of Environment (DoE), under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, issued the directive back in September 2010, instructing all the brick manufacturers to upgrade their emission system to modern and environment-friendly version by September 2012, later extending the deadline until June 30, 2016.
This directive was set because the traditional emission system poses serious threat to the environment.
The Brick Making and Kiln Establishment (Control) Act, 2013 mandates transformation of traditional kilns into “energy-efficient and modern” ones. It also suggests converting conventional fixed chimney kilns (FCK) into environment-friendly technologies like Zigzag, Hybrid Hoffman, Vertical Shaft and Tunnel kilns.
Apart from the Tunnel system, the three other technologies emit less amount of carbon dioxide, black carbon, and carbon monoxide.
However, while the FCK still remains the most popular method used in Bangladesh, the Zigzag system is gaining popularity among brick manufacturers.
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According to the DoE office in Chittagong region, 99% brick kilns in Comilla have adopted low-emission technologies. Meanwhile, 30% brick kilns in Chittagong, 68% in Chandpur, 93% in Feni, 91% in Brahmanbaria, 92% in Noakhali, 68% in Lakshmipur and 28% in Cox’s Bazar have already adopted a modern eco-friendly technology.
Md Bodrul Huda, assistant director (technical) of DoE in Chittagong, said the reason why many kiln owners are still reluctant to convert their kilns into environment-friendly ones is mainly due to financial crisis, a lack of knowledge about the modern technologies and a lack of awareness about the environment.
However, the DoE is working to encourage them to adopt the environment-friendly technologies, he added.
“We are taking tough measures against the errant brick kiln owners. Anyone running an illegal system will face a maximum one-year jail term or a Tk1 lakh fine or both, while all equipment will be confiscated,” Bodrul told the Dhaka Tribune.
“The brick kiln owners should keep in mind that adopting modern technologies are cost-effective, which would minimize the production cost and maximize profit.
“In addition, brick kilns using outdated technologies are a major source of air pollution. Toxic emissions from conventional kilns interrupt photosynthesis, and cause respiratory diseases,” he added.
Md Sahabudin, president of Chittagong Lohagara Brick Kiln Owners’ Association, said the cost of converting to modern manufacturing and emission systems is “astronomical.”
“Setting up an FCK costs around Tk25 lakh, but converting to a Zigzag system costs Tk70-80 lakh. Moreover, the law forbids installation of a brick kiln within one kilometre of a residential neighbourhood, school, arable land, forest, marshland, city corporation, municipality, and upazila headquarters. Now it seems there is hardly any place to set up a kiln in the country,” he lamented.
Md Edris Ali, vice-president of the Chittagong chapter of Poribesh Bachao Andolon, a green organization, said the conventional brick kiln owners should adopt the modern technologies of brick manufacturing without delay, as the traditional brick kilns are responsible for 30% of air pollution in Bangladesh.
“The traditional brick kilns emit more smoke than any other factory as the burning process is lengthier.
“They are also to blame for the emission of harmful gases like carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and other particles into the air, which causes serious respiratory diseases like bronchitis and asthma. The pollution also weakens the human body’s immune system,” he added.