Large-scale use of topsoil for brick manufacturing badly affects fertility of farmlands and harms environment in the agriculture-based northern district.
After harvesting Aman paddy, collection of topsoil from farmlands around brick kilns is a common scene in the district as brick manufacturing is going on in full swing during the dry season.
Violating government rules, 35 brick kilns have been set up on farmlands in different areas of five upazilas under the district, officials said.
Farmers use excessive chemical fertilisers and pesticides for growing crops on the lands where the topsoil is removed. The harmful items finally find their way to nearby water bodies and cause pollution,” said Mezbah Ul-Alam, acting assistant director (AD) of the Department of Environment (DoE) in Rangpur.
“I was pressured into selling topsoil from four bighas of land three years ago. Now I'm frustrated with the yield,” said Nabi Islam, 55, a farmer at Bamonerbasa village of Aditmari upazila.
“Earlier I harvested three crops per year from my land, but now it produces only a single crop each year. Even after applying overdoses of chemical fertiliser and pesticide, the result isn't expected,” he said.
“My four-bigha farmland has become uneven and less fertile as I sold the topsoil five years ago. While growing paddy, I have to remove excess stagnant water or face the problem of weeds,” Mahasin Miah, 65, of Baraipara in Hatibandha upazila said.
Bidhubhushon Roy, deputy director of the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) in Lalmonirhat, said around 2,500 bighas of farmlands lose their topsoil every year for manufacturing bricks in 35 brick kilns in Lalmonirhat every year.
“Topsoil is the portion of the ground that can be easily turned over by a ploughshare. Generally, topsoil contains all the nutrients and organic materials that plants or crops need to grow,” he said.
“We try to make farmers aware so that they do not sell farmlands' topsoil but we can't take legal action against brick kiln owners,” he said.
Denying the allegation of creating pressure on the farmers to sell topsoil, Entazur Rahman, a brick kiln owner at Doljor village of Aditmari 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 farmlands' 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 measures for stopping the harmful practice.
If farmers file any written complaint, DoE officials will take legal action in this regard immediately, said Mezbah Ul-Alam, acting AD of DoE in Rangpur.