Around 300 bighas of land loses the topsoil every year as farmers are lured or forced into selling it to brick kilns in five upazilas under the district.
The process causes serious decline of soil fertility in the agriculture-based northern district but the authorities concerned seem reluctant to take any step to save the farmlands from the influential brick kiln owners.
Topsoil from 9 to 10 bighas of land are needed to manufacture 10 to 12 lakh bricks in each of the 31 brick kilns in the district every year, said agriculture officials, bricks manufacturers and local farmers.
Topsoil is needed to manufacture first class bricks and labourers employed by brick kiln owners collect it from the farmlands around, said Hadilur Rahman, a brick manufacturing worker at Madonerchak village in Lalmonirhat Sadar upazila.
"Topsoil of one bigha of farmland is sold for Tk 6000 to Tk 12000 and a brick kiln owner buys topsoil from 9 to 10 bighas every year," said Jibon Chandra Saha, manager of a brick kiln at Madonerchak.
Brick kiln owners are collecting topsoil of two feet depth from the farmlands, much to the harm of soil fertility, said Jamal Uddin, Mansur Ali, Abdul Jabbar, Meher Ali, Sultan Miah and others of the same village.
“I got about 40 maunds of paddy from two bighas of land three years ago, but the yield has declined by half as I sold the topsoil to a local brick kiln,” said farmer Farhadul Islam at Doljor village of Aditmari upazila.
Kashem Ali, 60, a farmer at Bamonerbasa village of Kaliganj upazila, said he decided to sell topsoil of his two bighas of farmland to a local brick kiln owner this year, as his land faced water crisis after neighbouring lands were dug two feet deep a year ago.
Denying the allegation of creating pressure on the farmers to sell topsoil, Shahidul Islam, owner of ASB Brick Kiln at Bamonerbasa village in Kaliganj upazila, said, "We purchase topsoil from the farmers as we need it for manufacturing bricks. We never face any objection from the agriculture department regarding the matter."
Large-scale use of topsoil for manufacturing bricks badly affects agriculture and causes harm to environment, said Mamunur Rashid, agriculture and environment coordinator of NGO RDRS Bangladesh.
He urged the authorities concerned to take immediate measure for stopping the harmful practice.
Abdul Mazid, deputy director of the Department of Agriculture Extension in Lalmonirhat, said, "Crop production falls to about 50 percent if the lands lose the topsoil. I will take necessary step with the help of district administration to save the farmlands from the brick kiln owners."