Most owners of brick kilns in Amtali upazila of Barguna do not comply with any rules set by the government. Most of their kilns use illegal drum chimneys, consume firewood as fuel and many of them even have sawmills on the yard.
Locals allege that a lack of monitoring by the district administration has given rise to the non-compliance.
There are 25 brick kilns in Amtali upazila's seven unions and 11 of those installed drum chimneys illegally.
During a recent visit to the area, this correspondent found three kilns -- HLB in Chandra village, JBB in Kawnia village and BBCKO in Roybala village -- using firewood as fuel. Moreover, workers at sawmills, set up right on the yards, were seen sizing up logs for burning at the kilns.
Sohel Rana, a resident of Roybala village, said brick kiln owners are using firewood as fuel at their kilns, defying the existing laws.
Trees in the surrounding areas have turned black, while people living nearby are suffering from various illnesses including respiratory diseases, he also said.
Nazrul Islam, who lives in Kawnia village, said, “The brick kiln owners have been breaking the law and putting people's lives in harm's way for years. The local administration has to step immediately and bring the situation under control.”
Invaluable trees in the forests are being destroyed as those are cheaper source of fuel for the kilns. The administration, however, is not taking stern action against the brick kiln owners who set up sawmills on their brickfields, alleged Amadul Islam from Chandra village.
While speaking with this correspondent, HLB brickfield owner Harun-Or-Rashid said, “Officials from the local administration visited the brickfield many times, but they never asked me to remove the sawmill from the yard of the kiln.”
According to “The Brick Manufacturing and Brick Kilns Establishment (Control) Act, 2013”, it is illegal to use any wood for fuel at brick kilns and the violator would be punished with a three-year jail term or a fine of Tk 3 lakh or both, said Advocate Sayed Mohammad Mohsin, a member of Patuakhali Lawyers' Association.
Although the law also prohibits setting up of brick kilns in residential and commercial areas, reserved forests or agricultural land, violation of it is rampant, he added.
Contacted, Amtali Upazila Forest Officer Saidur Rahman Akon said eviction drives against the illegal brick kilns and sawmills might be carried out soon as he already has informed the higher authorities of the sawmills that had been set up on yards of brick kilns and wood being used as fuel at the kilns.
Abdul Halim, assistant director at Department of Environment in Barishal, said immediate action would be taken against at least 11 kilns that use wood as fuel in Amtali upazila.
Amtali Upazila Nirbahi Officer Sarwar Hossain said, “We will take steps to remove the drum chimneys from the kilns very soon.”