Dozens of illegal brick kilns, set up in arable land near schools and colleges, have formed a powerful clique who are removing the fertile topsoil for making bricks, rendering the fields unusable for agriculture.
Fields that used to be covered by crops are now dotted with brick kilns operating right under the nose of the local administration.
Locals said they had filed complaints with the administration but there has been no change. They said nobody dares speak against the practice of cutting topsoil as the brick kiln owners are working in collusion with a local syndicate and the administration.
“No-one dares protest against the removal of topsoil,” a local man said, declining to be named.
Bangladesh, the fourth largest brick producer in the world, has a voracious appetite for the construction material. In a 2017 report, the Department of Environment said there are more than 7,000 brick kilns in Bangladesh that produce about 23 billion bricks annually.
The $2.53 billion industry accounts for approximately 1 per cent of the GDP and generates employment for more than a million people. It consumes 3.350 billion cubic feet of clay and uses 5.68 million tonnes of coal every year. The sector is responsible for emitting 15.67 million tons of CO2.
Abu Bakr, secretary general of the Bangladesh Brick Manufacturing Owners Association, said that the industry is growing about 10 per cent every year.
Shajahanpur Statistics Office sources said more than a hundred brick kilns were established in the upazila which has 16,180 hectares of arable land.
In Madla, Khottapara, Majhira unions of the upazila, the UNB correspondent saw dozens of trucks being loaded with topsoil from arable lands and taken to brick kilns.
Excessive removing of topsoil has turned parts of Jalshuka and Chandai areas in Khottapara union into wetland.
Farmers stare at bleak future with huge pits dotting arable lands in Madla, Malipara, Sajapur, Belpukur, Dumunpukur, Chakjora, Khalishakandi, Dublagari, Durulia, Ghasira, Partekhur, Fatki, Jamunna and Darigachha areas in Shajahanpur upazila.
Upazila Agriculture Officer Noor-e-Alam said land grabbers are only thinking about making profits. “The most helpful ingredients are contained in 4-6 inches below the surface area. It takes lands 15 to 20 years to get back their lost nutrition if they lose topsoil,” he said.
Farmers are producing brinjal, chili, potato, and other crops in the fertile land of the upazila, Alam said, adding that illegal soil cutting is threatening crop production.
You may also read: Now brick fields operating in municipal area
But Shajahanpur Upazila Nirbahi Officer Mahmuda Parvin said they do not find land grabbers during their drives, reports UNB.
She sidestepped a question on whether the administration has failed to contain land grabbing and said the victims should file cases against the illegal occupiers.
© 2017 - All Rights with The Financial Express