According to a report titled “Global Burden of Disease” published in the science journal Lancet on May 18, 2022, it clearly mentions that pollution caused over 215 thousand premature deaths in Bangladesh in 2019. The poor air quality was the main contributor to such deaths while water and lead pollution and occupational hazards were the other causes.
Dhaka had the second worst air, said World Air Quality Report (2021). WHO data show that nine out of 10 people breathe air that exceeds WHO guideline limits containing high levels of pollutants, while low- and middle-income countries are suffering from the highest exposures. It was also estimated that 195,000 Bangladeshi people died due to air pollution each year.
Now, it is an established fact that small scale industries are one of the major contributors to atmospheric pollution. Among them, the brick kiln industry is a flourishing industry as the demand for bricks is increasing universally due to fast economic growth.
Bangladesh will need to construct approximately 4 million new houses annually to accommodate the growing population. Rapid urbanization in the country has created a booming construction industry and spurred the production of billions of bricks each year, with demand for the bricks rising at an annual rate of about 5.28%.
Bangladesh has about 6,000 authorized brickfields and numerous illegal ones according to Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR). The brickfields are typically small independent units and operate 24 hours during the dry season. In Dhaka, around 4,500 brick kilns are in operation, producing about 9 billion bricks per year.
The largest brick making zone is on the north of Dhaka city, where more than 1,000 brickfields are situated. Most of the brick kilns follow extremely crude technology to fire bricks. The main raw materials used in brick kilns to bunk dry bricks are firewood and coal. In case of unavailability of coal brick fields (about 33%) use firewood illegally. As a result, a large number of trees like are being felled indiscriminately.
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If Bangladesh maintains its current economic growth rate, continued use of this outdated brick-firing technology would raise the level of greenhouse gas emissions significantly. Furthermore, use of firewood in kilns also results in significant deforestation. The department of environment said that the 4,000 brick kilns burn nearly 20 lakh tons of coal and another 20 lakh tons of wood every year to meet the demand for 400 to 1200 tons of fuel.
Most brickfields have set up 25-feet tin chimneys in place of 120-feet, defying government rules. According to the Brick Kiln Control (amended) Act (2001), there must be no establishment of brick kilns within a three-kilometre radius of human inhabitation as well as fruit gardens. But lack of proper monitoring, brickfields have sprung up like mushrooms and the situation has created a serious threat to the environment and biodiversity.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the major contributor of global warming and brick kilns are one of the major sources. Globally, brick kilns burn 375 million tons of coal per year. Other major pollutants are also being emitted. These pollutants have adverse impacts on human health and the environment.
The pollution from these kilns has reached alarming proportions. There is an urgent need to make a transition from these polluting technologies to environment-friendly technologies. The technologies that can readily be employed are the Improved Zigzag Kiln, Hoffman Kiln, Hybrid Hoffman Kiln (HHK), Tunnel Kiln, and the Vertical Shaft Brick Kiln (VSBK).
The replacement of the existing technologies will result in significant reductions in greenhouse gas emission, especially if the coal-based technologies can be replaced by natural gas-based technologies. Calculations show that these technologies are able to reduce GHG emissions by 42% and 29 % respectively compared to the existing Bull’s Trench Kiln (BTK) technology. A single kiln that runs on HHK technology will produce 15 million bricks and cut carbon emission by 5,000 tons a year.
Energy saving automatic high-tech brick kilns are beneficial both for humanity and the environment. Less loss of firewood, less burning of coal, less demand for clay, less intervention of human bodies etc are different encouraging sides of high-tech brick kilns. By dropping the use of coal, it can also reduce dependency on other countries for importing coal from them. As high-tech brick kilns ensure whole year productivity rather than seasonal productivity, it can easily cope with increasing demands of bricks in Bangladesh.
The government needs to push people by creating a focus on high-tech brick kilns and make the technology available to the brick producers. Digital and print media have to come forward to encourage people to use such varieties of bricks. More advertising and marketing is needed to familiarize humans with eco-friendly bricks. To encourage entrepreneurs, banks should provide long-term loans.