The dangerous proliferation of illegal brick kilns in rural areas of Bangladesh is having a two-fold damaging effect. First, the fertility of farmlands around such brickfields is being affected adversely, and second, the plumes of black smoke are making the air heavy with toxins leading to various respiratory diseases. These are not unknown to authorities. Yet, we find in almost all cases where there are such brick kilns, the owners are well connected politically and generally have no problems skirting the law because unfortunately, many of our laws are treated as mere pieces of legislation that are seldom enforced.
Indeed, as per a report published in this paper on January 13, the Chittagong Hill Tracts is now suffering the ill effects of brick kilns, most of which are illegal. The sad reality is that people's protest is met with indifference at the local administration level most of the time. The other interesting development is that many of these kilns are being set up in remote areas of the hills, particularly around reserve forests which open up a new dimension to environmental degradation of the few forests that are supposed to be “protected.”
With about 55 kilns in operation in Lama, Alikadom, Ruma, Naikonchhari and Sadar upzilas, we wonder what excuse authorities are going to come up with in the defence of brick kiln owners. People's health, it would seem, is viewed with utter disregard by those who are supposed to guard the populace from law-breaking industries. We can only hope that there are still some in authority who care about people's wellbeing and will take steps to rein in these illegal kilns in the interest of preserving public health as well as the environment.