Loss of agricultural productivity
In five upazilas of Lalmonirhat, 500 bighas of farmland lose productivity every year. This happens because the owners of these lands are forced to sell the topsoil to some 40 brick kilns to make bricks. The downside to removing topsoil from a farmland plot is that it renders the land useless for years. Almost all the nutrients needed to grow crops and regenerate the land for future cropping comes from topsoil. But what makes this situation particularly unpalatable is that the nexus of brick kiln owners is forcing farmers to sell topsoil and the local administration is in no position to aid hapless farmers.
That traditional brick kilns are causing serious damage to the environment is an established fact. Now food security is being threatened, not just in Lalmonirhat but also other districts, which is a worrying development. Ironically, it is also impossible to make bricks without topsoil. The Brick Burning Control Act 1989 (revised 2013) specifically prohibits the utilisation of any soil from agricultural land. While having the Act is reassuring, we are distressed to see that there is no official agency to monitor whether the Act is being violated or not. This explains why the brick kiln industry is making hay in places like Lalmonirhat and food security is being threatened through loss of agricultural productivity.
It is time for authorities to act on this very serious issue. With nearly 7,000 brick kilns in operation nationwide, there is serious need for a watchdog to oversee that farmlands and farmers are protected for the greater interest.