Bhairab upazila in Kishoreganj has a busy hub of mosquito coil factories that produce coils worth Tk1 crore every day, but most of these factories do not have necessary permissions to operate.
Having sprung up in the past four decades, these factories have employed some 3,000 male and female workers.
They produce coils of more than 150 brand names, but only eight to ten factories including Borak, Boss, Abedin, City, Saint Martin's, and Maxo, have the necessary permits and documents. Some factories produce coils for more than one brand name.
By some accounts, the first coil factory was set up in Bhairab in 1980 by a businessman named Yakub who manufactured and marketed the Borak coil brand. Following Yakub Mahbub Chemical Works, coil factories gradually started spreading in Tantarkandi, Laxmipur, Bhairabpur, Kalipur and Jagannathpur areas of the upazila.
Most of the coil factory owners have set up their unauthorised production centres in various rented homes in residential areas with the help of locally influential people. They have been doing business illegally year after year only with a municipal trade license.
A coil factory is required to get approval from several departments including the municipality, fire service, the Department of Agriculture, the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution, and the Department of Environment. But, factory owners are reluctant to approach these offices because of "hassles".
According to factory owners, most of these factories produce coils that cost Tk5 to Tk10 each. A factory produces an average of 50 cartons of coils every day that go to different parts of the country, including Dhaka, Chattogram, Gazipur, Narsingdi and Cumilla.
Md Nabi Hossain, whose Abedin Chemical Works has been producing coils for more than 10 years, said, "The number of coil factories in Bhairab has increased in the last five years."
Nabi said his factory has all necessary approvals. The factory employs 40-50 workers and markets its coils in Cumilla, Narsingdi, and Gazipur."
After working in different coil factories for more than 30 years, Fazlur Rahman has now set up his own factory named Arafat Chemical Works in Bhairabpur of the upazila.
He said, "The factories in Bhairab produce coils worth Tk1 crore every day and we market our products through dealers."
He said they do business for five months – three months before winter, and two months after it. The rest of the year is considered to be the average season. And in the average season, business comes down by half.
"Most factories are doing business without proper documents. As a result, those who are doing business with approval from all departments are facing problems," added Fazlur Rahman.
No coil factory in Bhairab appoints a chemist to maintain safety. Workers have to handle different chemicals that are harmful to human health.
The local administration occasionally fines factories for violating safety rules.
Bhairab Upazila Assistant Commissioner (Land) and Executive Magistrate Himadri Khisa told The Business Standard, "All but a handful of factories are unauthorised. We occasionally raid factories with mobile courts and fine them. We sealed two factories recently.