A menace that goes unnoticed
A total of 130 brickfields are being operated illegally in 14 upazilas of Lalmonirhat and Kurigram districts thanks to the inaction of the authorities concerned.
Although these illegal brickfields are in operation, no legal action is being taken by the Department of Environment (DoE) and local administration. They have a list of illegal brick kilns but they are in a slumber for reasons unknown.
Locals alleged that the owners of the illegal brickfields are politically and influential and they are running the brickfields 'managing' all corners.
These illegal brickfields have been built on agricultural land near residential areas, they said.
Montaz Ali, a farmer from Tentultala village in Ulipur upazila of Kurigram, said crop production was declining due to the illegal brick kilns and these are also hurting the production of various fruits including mango, blackberry, jackfruit and betel nut. A huge quantity of valuable topsoil is also being burnt in the brick kilns.
The locals do not dare protest the malpractice for fear of repercussion, he said.
Abul Kashem, a farmer from Bhatibari village in Lalmonirhat Sadar upazila, said over two hundred villagers lodged written complaints against the illegal brick kilns on agricultural land but to no avail. The illegal brick kilns are still in operation.
It is unknown to them why the authorities are not taking any legal action in this regard, he said adding that "Due to the illegal brick kilns, we have been facing various problems including reduction of crop production on the land nearby."
Mez-Babul-Alam, deputy director of DoE in Rangpur, said 22 out of 119 brickfields in Kurigram have been approved and 18 out of 51 in Lalmonirhat have been approved. The list of illegal brick kilns has been given to the local administration.
"Due to our manpower shortage, it is not possible for us to conduct regular drives," he said.
Kurigram Deputy Commissioner (DC) Mohammad Rezaul Karim said drives against illegal brick kilns were ongoing.
The operation could be expedited if the DoE officials were present, he said.
Lalmonirhat DC Abu Jafor said letters have been sent to all the five upazila administrations to take action against illegal brick kilns.
Immediate action would be taken if the DoE authority demands, he said.