AT least 67 percent of the country's 8,500 brick kilns are running without the permission of the Department of Environment, according to the environment group, Poribesh Bachao Andolon (Poba). Of these, more than 1,900 kilns use wood to burn bricks, a practice which is a punishable offence as per our environmental laws. These statistics are highly alarming, given that unauthorised brick kilns are responsible for causing irreversible damage to the environment and posing serious health hazards to people working and living in nearby areas.
Large amounts of cultivatable farmlands and forests are being cleared off to make way for these illegal brick kilns, often with the help of muscle power. An overwhelming majority of kilns, which emit highly toxic gases, are set up within three kilometres of residential or forest areas, in violation of laws.
It is incomprehensible how such a huge number of kilns can be operating in the country without valid licenses and relevant clearance, outside the purview of the Department of Environment (DoE) and district administrations. Are we to assume that the authorities are totally unaware of the existence of such kilns and that they are ill-equipped to conduct regular drives to identify illegal and violating brick fields? Or are we to assume that there is collusion between relevant officials and illegal brick kiln owners, given that the illegal activities of such brick kilns have been repeatedly highlighted by different quarters, including in this column itself?
We strongly urge the government to hold relevant bodies accountable for this grievous lack of oversight and take urgent steps to close down all these illegal brick kilns.