A recent study by Stanford University in California, USA, reveals that more than three-fourth of brick kilns in Bangladesh were illegally constructed within 1 kilometer of a school, and 10% are close to health care facilities.
Everyone in Bangladesh lives within 10 kilometers of a brick kiln that pollutes air and reduces life expectancy by two years, it finds.
Researchers used Artificial Intelligence along with satellite images to locate the brick kilns and monitor the amounts of particulate matters -- PM10 and PM2.5 -- and toxic gases they emit. The approach is able to distinguish polluting kilns from others and identify technologies used by the brick kilns.
The study report published on 19 April in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science claims that brick kilnsaccount for17 % of the total carbon dioxide emission in Bangladesh and release more than half of the pollutants in the Dhaka's air.
The authorities in Bangladesh manually monitor the sector with limited workforce.
Brick kiln owners acknowledge the findings.
"In Bangladesh, there is no land where a brick kiln can be set up.About 95% of the existing brick kilnsareprohibited by law," said Asadur Rahman Khan, former vice-president of Bangladesh Brick Field Owners Association.
The Brick Production and Brick Kiln Building (Control) Act was enacted in 2013 and amended in 2019,overlooking the facts and reality,he said.
Prof Ahmad Kamruzzaman Majumder,chairman of the Department of Environmental Sciences, Stamford University, said the authorities should put in place a real-time monitoring system for better enforcement of the lawand the technology is available in Bangladesh.
What law says
According to the 2013 Brick Production and Brick Kiln Building (Control) Act,a brick kiln is prohibited within 1 kilometer of an educational and research institution, hospitals and clinics, city corporations, municipalities, upazila headquarters; residential, protected and commercial areas, ecologically critical areas and degraded airshed.
Brick kilnsalso must maintain 2-kilometer distance from government forest lands and half kilometer from hills.
A gazette notification in January 2020 announced that brick kilns, if operated with advanced technologies, can be within 400 metres of the entities.
Setting up a kiln in prohibited areas is a punishable offense that will lead to a maximum five- year imprisonment or a maximum financial penalty of Tk 5 lakh or both.
Mohammad Abdul Motalib, deputy director at the Department of Environment, said the DoEwas not aware of the study findings.
"We have a digital database of the locations of Brick kilns. But kiln ownersrapidly change the locationsand it is not possible to track the changes of places," he said.
Between 1 December 2020and 28 February this year, the DoE demolished 471 illegal kilns, finedthem around Tk32 crore and filed 780 cases.
According to the DoE, there are 7,000 brick kilns in Bangladesh.The country is the fourth in the world, producing23 billion bricks annually. More than 37% of the kilns still usefixed chimney, an outdated technology banned in the countrysince 2014.
Brick kilns burn 6 million tonnes of coal and release 9 million tonnes of carbon di-oxide annually.In the greater Dhaka region, kilns contribute approximately 91% and 84% of the total annual release of PM10 and PM2.5.
The "State of Global Air 2020" report jointly published by the US-based Health Effects Institute and Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation stated that air pollution killed 173, 500 people in 2017 in Bangladesh. Of them, 74,000 died due to exposure of PM2.5.
The government has set a goal in 2019 to use an environment- friendly alternative to bricks in all public constructions by 2025.