The topsoil of vast areas of farmlands in the agriculture based northern district is being used for manufacturing bricks, which is having a harmful impact on agriculture and the environment.
Farmers are aware in this regard, but they are forced to sell the topsoil of their farmlands to brick kiln owners.
Around 40 brick kilns have been set up in farmlands of five upazilas in the district, violating the government rule, and they all use the topsoil of the farmlands to make bricks.
Collection of topsoil from farmlands surrounding brick kilns begins after harvesting of Aman paddy and continues for around one and a half months.
Rangpur Department of Environment (DoE) acting Assistant Director Mezbah Ul-Alam told this correspondent that lifting of topsoil has a bad impact on the environment as farmers apply too much chemical fertiliser and pesticide on the crops in these lands. “Chemical fertilisers and pesticides flow into nearby waterbodies from farmlands and pollute the water,” he said.
“With the hope of getting expected production of crop from land without topsoil, I applied overdose of fertiliser and pesticide, but the result is not as expected,” said Sudhir Chandra Roy, 48, a farmer of Purbo Nawdabansh village in Hatibandha upazila. “I am very disappointed with the productivity on four bighas of land after selling the topsoil,” he said. “I used to harvest three crops per year, but now I get one crop in a year,” he said, adding that he was forced to sell the topsoil three years ago.
Delowar Hossain, 62, a farmer of Dhawlai village in Kaliganj upazila, is also suffering since he sold the topsoil from his four bighas of farmland five years ago. “I have to remove excess stagnant water while growing paddy, otherwise weeds prevent the growth of paddy. The land has become uneven and less fertile since I sold the soil,” he added.
Lalmonirhat Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) Deputy Director Bidhubhushon Roy told this correspondent that around 3,000 bighas of farmlands lose their topsoil every year for manufacturing of bricks. “We can only build awareness among farmers for not selling topsoil but we cannot take legal action against the owners of brick kilns,” he said. “Topsoil is the portion of soil that can be turned over by a ploughshare. Generally, top soil contains all the nutrients and organic materials that crops need to grow,” he added.
Rejecting the allegation of creating pressure on the farmers to sell topsoil, Lutfar Rahman, a brick kiln owner in Hatibandha 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. Farmers are interested in selling topsoil from their farmlands.”
Mamunur Rashid, Agriculture and Environment Coordinator of non-governmental organisation RDRS Bangladesh, told this correspondent that large-scale use of topsoil from farmlands for manufacturing bricks badly affects agriculture and harms the environment. He urged the authorities concerned to take immediate measures for stopping the harmful practice.
Farmers in the district urged the government to take steps for protecting topsoil from the clutches of brick kiln owners.