Several unauthorised brick kilns have been removing earth from the embankment along the Katcha river in Indurkani upazila for over a year, but the authorities still seem to be oblivious of the criminal act.
In clear violation of environmental laws as well as the 'Brick Making and Kiln Establishment (Control) Act 2013', five brick kilns are being operated illegally within close proximity of localities and agricultural land in Char Kholpatua village of the upazila.
Despite the fact, no one dares to protest the crime, as the owners of the kilns are highly influential in the area, said villagers.
Aside from being victims of various forms of environmental pollution, they also face threat of flooding due to the damage inflicted on at least two locations of the Katcha river embankment.
The village has been experiencing floods ever since the authorities of HBI brick field levelled a part of the embankment over a year ago for easy shipment of bricks using the adjacent waterway, they also said.
Moreover, not only it is surrounded by crop fields, pitch black effluent from the brick kiln is released into several ponds, dug in the middle of rice fields, and into a network of drainage running through the crop fields.
When this correspondent was visiting the area recently and asked HBI owner Ramiz Howlader about the matter, he refused to make any comment. However, a few of his employees claimed that the levee was damaged by flood.
AMBI is another brick maker that also caused a substantial damage to the levee of the Katcha river in the same village.
Its proprietor Monirul Islam alias Maruf however claimed that they were investing a large sum of money on construction of a second embankment to protect the original one.
The third illegal brick kiln, NBI, has long been making bricks with earth removed from the embankment. It is also causing severe air pollution by burning firewood in its furnace.
There are only three licensed brick kilns in the entire upazila and the illegal ones continue to operate openly in remote areas where monitoring of the authorities is almost absent, said locals.
Abdur Rahim Khan, a resident of Kholpatua village, said, "Although the brick kiln owners are involved in numerous illegal activities, no steps have ever been taken against them."
When the attention of Khadija Akter, sub-assistant engineer of Water Development Board (WDB) in Pirojpur, was drawn over the situation at Kholpatua village, she claimed ignorance. "Since I've come to learn about the matter from you, I'll definitely look into it," she said.
This correspondent was unable to reach Kamruzzaman Sarker, deputy director of the Department of Environment in Barisal Division, for his comments as several calls made on his cell phone went unanswered.
Contacted, Pirojpur Deputy Commissioner Abu Ali Md Shazzad Hossain said they routinely conduct drives against such illegal brick kilns. "We won't allow any illegal brick kiln in the district," he assured.