Farmers no longer grow any crops here as the land has become barren and locals say their children and senior citizens are constantly ill and suffer from breathing complications
Ramnathpur village under Khulna’s Paikgachha upazila was once an ideal village for agriculture. The village, situated on the bank of the Kopotakkho River, had highly fertile land. And naturally almost 80% of the population here were farmers by occupation.
But realities have changed in recent years. The village has now taken on a grim look with its air filled with smog and land covered in ash and soot.
Farmers no longer grow any crops here as the land has become barren. Locals say their children and senior citizens are constantly ill and suffer from breathing complications.
Two brick kilns—“Jamuna Bricks” and “Jamuna Bricks 2”—operating in the densely populated village are the root cause of the aforementioned problems.
Locals say even after their license was revoked the brick kilns have continued to operate at full capacity. Moreover, the brick kiln workers have been holding out threats to locals for talking to journalists about their predicament.
According to sources, three men—Akhil Bandhu Ghosh, Majid Morol and Chittaranjan Mandal—first set up a brick kiln called “Jamuna Bricks” in the area adjacent to the Kopotakkho River back in 2005.
Akhil Bandhu got the license in his name to operate the brick kiln from July 1, 2012 on seven conditions, including setting up the kiln in the modern eco-friendly zigzag system.
When the license expired on June 30, 2015, Akhil Bandhu withdrew his investment from the business and informed the deputy commissioner and the Department of Environment that he would not manage the kiln any longer.
On December 29, 2020, the Khulna Deputy Commissioner cancelled the brick kiln license.
However, the other owners, Chittaranjan Mandal, Majid Morol and his son Mithu Morol, continued managing the brick kiln and set up another brick kiln called “Jamuna Bricks 2” next to the first one.
Akhil Bandhu Ghosh, the original owner of the brick kiln, said: “When I first set up the brick kiln on 45 bigha, the area surrounding it was sparsely populated. Later, at the demand of the local people, I requested the deputy commissioner to cancel the license. But the brick kiln continues to operate without a license. I don't know what the administration is doing. The local people are in grave danger.”
Shefali Biswas, a local of the area, said: “We have sent multiple complaints letters about the unlicensed brick kiln to various government offices, including the deputy environment minister’s office. We were assured legal action but the brick kiln continues to operate at full capacity.
“As a result, we are slowly dying. Children and the elderly are suffering from breathing complications. It is not possible to cook outside because of the ashes from the brick kiln. We are being slowly poisoned. Moreover, the local women are regularly harassed by the brick kiln.”
“We want relief from all this and soon.”
Local farmer Ashek Kumar Das said: “My 3-4 bigha land on which I used to cultivate betel now looks like a coal mine. It becomes very difficult to live here during the summer.”
Paikgachha Police Station Officer in Charge (OC) Ijaz Shafi said: “Police are aware that locals of Ramnathpur are suffering because of the brick kilns. We are taking the matter seriously.”
Chittaranjan Mandal, owner of Jamuna Bricks, admitted that he did not have a license. “The worker who abused locals has been fired. We want to run the brick kiln in accordance with the law.”
Paikgachha Upazila Nirbahi Officer ABM Khalid Hassan Siddiqui said: “A mobile court drive will be conducted soon to shut down brick kilns operating illegally without licenses.”