- Cashing in on inaction of the authorities, bricks are still being made at 118 illegal kilns in Chattogram.
- Jamir Uddin, deputy director of the environment department's Chattogram district office, said there used to be 250 illegal brickfields in Chattogram, 132 of which have been closed in the last three months.
- If the two institutions want, they do not need more than a week to comply with the court order to shut down all illegally-operated brick kilns, said the Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh, which filed the writ petition.
For three times in the last three months, the High Court has directed the environment department and the district administration to shut down all illegally-operated brickfields in Chattogram.
However, the authorities have failed to take effective steps to stop the illegal brick kilns and blamed fund shortage for it. Cashing in on this inaction, bricks are still being made at 118 illegal kilns in Chattogram.
If the two institutions want, they do not need more than a week to comply with the court order, said the Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh (HRPB) – an environmental and human rights organisation – which filed the writ petition on 14 December, 2020.
On 18 March this year, the High Court issued a contempt of court ruling against the Chattogram deputy commissioner, director and deputy director of the environment department for not shutting down the illegal brick kilns despite repeated court orders to do so.
In this regard, Chattogram Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Mominur Rahman told The Business Standard, "We cannot knock down more than two brick kilns a day due to a manpower crisis. At least Tk2 lakh is required daily to run the demolition campaign but we have not been given a single penny by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change – that is one of the reasons."
Jamir Uddin, deputy director of the environment department's Chattogram district office, said there used to be 250 illegal brickfields in Chattogram, 132 of which have been closed in the last three months.
"But due to a lack of adequate allocations, regular operations cannot be carried out in the remaining brickfields. Among those, we have to arrange lunch for all – such as law enforcement agency members and rent excavators. We do not have the allocations now," he added.
Following the hearing of the writ petition filed in December last year, the High Court issued a ruling directing the closure of all illegally operated brickfields in Chattogram within the next seven days.
Although the Chattogram administration started its activities on the instructions of the High Court, it did not shut down illegal brick kilns in some places such as Lohagara and Chandanaish upazilas but collected fines. The petitioner brought contempt of court charges against the two executive magistrates who conducted the operation as the court order was not fully implemented.
On 31 January, a High Court bench comprising Justice Mohammad Mujibur Rahman Mia and Justice Mohammad Kamrul Hasan Mollah again directed to close down the illegal brick kilns in Chattogram and asked the authorities to submit a report to the court by 18 February.
However, the Chattogram deputy commissioner and the environment department sought time for the second time on 25 February. The court later granted 14 working days.
On 18 March, the virtual bench of Justice Mohammad Mujibur Rahman Mia and Justice Mohammad Kamrul Hossain Mollah issued contempt of court rulings against the Chattogram deputy commissioner, director and deputy director of the environment department for not stopping the illegal brick kilns.
Lawyer Manzill Murshed told The Business Standard, "According to the law, no brick kiln may operate without a licence. Yet many brick kilns continue their operations in defiance of court orders, which is a punishable offense. The Department of Environment and the district administration of Chattogram are repeatedly not doing their duty, but actually, the two government authorities do not need more than a week to comply with the court order.
Lawyer Manzill Morshed said, "The Department of Environment has informed the court about its financial constraints. The district administration is talking about a manpower crisis. But we have found that even though there are many more opportunities in the hands of the two authorities, they are not being used properly. As such, they can shut down brickfields by operating a mobile court."