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Bangladesh: New Law Coming to Ease Brick Baking ‘Ignoring Environmental Concern’
Source: unbconnect.com
Source Date: Friday, December 14, 2012
Focus: Electronic and Mobile Government, Knowledge Management in Government
Country: Bangladesh
Created: Dec 17, 2012

Dhaka, Dec 14 (UNB) – Even though horticulturists are claiming that emission of smoke from brick kilns are damaging crops and plants lying within a two-kilometre radius from the chimneys, the government is now on a move to ease brick baking enacting a new law.

The government step may take a little time to come into effect, but the setting up of brick kilns by showing muscle powers in the localities are quite at pace, adding much to the ado of the Department of Environment (DoE) to regulate the sector.

Referring to a recent research done by the Mango Research Institute, Chapainawabganj, Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) horticulturist Saeed Hassan told UNB, “It has been found that mangoes in groves laying within two kilometres of a brick kiln are affected with black tip disease.”

“The emission of C02 and S02 from the brick kiln chimneys reduce the boron absorption of the mango leaves across the two-kilometre periphery, leading to the blackening and hardening of the flesh at the lower part of the fruits,” he explained.

Besides, fractured and downsized fruits were also detected within the ranges of brick kilns, he added.

Saeed also noted that during his deputation at Ishwardi as a government horticulturist, he observed similar traits in coconut and betel nuts. “There has been no research on coconuts or betel nuts, but my estimate is that the emissions from brick kilns can cause about 30-40 percent reduction of the fruit production,” he said.

Another study by an international team of scientists at Peshwar in Pakistan also found out that Hydrogen fluoride emissions from brick kilns have been damaging trees and crops.

Published in the February issue of Environmental Pollution, the study pointed out that despite the potential of high fluoride emissions to damage to crops the impact of these brick kilns on agricultural production and farmers’ livelihoods in Asia is poorly understood.

Abdur Rahim Majumder, chairman of Bholakot No. 9 union parishad (UP) at Lakkhipur district, realised the dangers of brick kilns so close to the houses and crop fields quite a few years back, but could do nothing against the muscle power of the entrepreneurs.

“Now, there’re six brick kilns in my UP. The establishment of the brick kilns needed my clearance as per the laws, but I couldn’t withhold the applications by the entrepreneurs in face of threats and even physical assaults. Now, the brick field owners are not even letting me live in my own village,” he said.

All the brick kilns are very close to the habitation and crop fields, even within 100 metres, he said, adding that it is unimaginable to think about maintaining the environmental laws that prohibits a brick kiln within three kilometres of any habitation.

A villager of Dohla under the same union, wishing anonymity, told UNB that the third brick kiln in the village was established just about a year ago, despite protests by the villagers and the UP chairman.

“The villagers didn’t want a third brick kiln in the vicinity, rather they want the previously set up brick kilns to stops. We’ve seen enough of crop damages. The worst affected are the tall trees, including coconut and betel nuts,” he said.

A coconut tree used to give about 40-50 fruits, but since the brick kilns started the operation they are giving only about 20-30 fruits, he added.

Asked about the failure to regulate the brick kilns with regards to the bar of minimum distance from habitation, DoE director general (in-charge) Md Shahjahan said the department alone cannot ensure the regulation of brick kilns as it also involves the role of the representatives to give the plot area clearance certificates.

A high official at the Environment Ministry also said the government is thinking about reducing the minimum distance from habitation, forests and groves, allowed for setting up of a brick kiln.

The Environment Ministry has already forwarded the draft of the new law, titled ‘The Brick Manufacturing Bill, 2012’, prepared by the DoE, to the cabinet, said the official.

The draft law proposes reducing the minimum distance of a brick kiln from human habitation, forest and groves as outlined in the Brick Kiln (Control) Act, 1989 as three kilometres.

The new act is going to propose the distance to be reduced at one kilometre only, said sources.

DoE director general (in-charge) Md Shahjahan told UNB that the draft law is still at the premature stages as it has not yet been sent to the law ministry for its vetting.

He, however, noted that the emission of brick kilns is going to be reduced in the coming days due to new technologies that are gradually being adopted by the owners.

But the records kept by Air Quality (AQ) Cell of DoE show that only 15 percent of the country’s brick kilns have so far adopted fuelwoond-saving and low-emission technologies as directed by the department.

The DoE earlier set a deadline for brick kiln owners to replace the fixed chimney brick kilns with fuelwood-plus-emission-saving technologies such as Virtual Shaft, Hoffman, and Zigzag brick kilns by March of 2012, but the deadline has been extended until March next year due to very low adoption rate.

According AQ Cell, about 1000 out of 6000 DoE-enlisted brick kilns have so far adopted the above mentioned technologies.
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