(This article includes only important statistics from the study findings. To obtain elaborate results, statistics, high-resolution maps, spatial data and for future collaboration on this research, please contact DOT 'N' ARC)
If you are travelling to or from Dhaka city by road or waterway, you may come across the scenic beauty of numerous lonesome tall smoky towers in the rural foggy landscape of sandy floodplain that entices the feeling of sadness, reminds you the impermanence of life or an apocalypse from a science fiction movie. Those smoky towers are manmade brickfields (brick kilns) constantly burning out soft muddy bricks to turn them into hardy ones; fueled by coal, wood, rubber and tire. Each one is a highly hot pit, a mini hell, serving the growing demand for house and industry construction in a fast growing already populous mega city. These are not only visible around Dhaka, also near all major cities in Bangladesh. There are about 5000 brickfields across the country, contributing to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 1% and employing 1 million people (BUET, 2007).
Dhaka, the capital city has been marked as one of the most polluted cities in the world (Gurjar et al. 2008). With all economic and political activities centered at Dhaka, the mega city with a population of 17 million (1 crore 70 lakhs, 10% of country population) has been growing at exponential rate - on average at 3.82% per year (BBS statistics). By adding up about 629,000 people each year Dhaka is the highest densely populated (43,500 person per sq. km.) mega city on earth (UNFPA and BBS statistics). As predicted by the United Nations, the population will increase by 64% and will host about 27 million (2 crore 70 lakh) people by 2030 (World Urbanization Prospects, United Nations, 2009). Currently the construction industry is growing by 5.6% per year, which will push the brick manufacturing sector to grow by 2-3% per year over the next decade (World Bank, 2010). So, with no surprise, more of those heavenly scenic spots will appear like mushrooms in near future.
"About 40 lakhs metric tons (4 million MT) of coal and wood (also tires and rubbers) are burnt each year in the brickfields around Dhaka city, therefore impairing city's and suburbs' air quality and affecting nearby flora and fauna."
Traditional brickfields (Fixed Chimney Kilns (FCKs)), which is very common in South Asia, and has been a threat to the air quality of developing nations as well as to the global climate. As opposed to the modern kilns which use electricity, refined fuels including natural gas and propane, traditional kilns use mainly low-quality coal (imported from India) with high sulfer and clinker, and biomass (such as wood) (Croitoru and Sarraf, 2012). As many previous scientific studies have identified, these traditional kilns emit hazardous pollutants such as PM2.5, PM10, CO2, CO, SO2, NO2, NOx, Volatile Organic Compounds, and heavy metals therefore contributing to the global warming and affecting the health of human and other biological species around them. The CO2 emission from brickfields around Bangladesh is about 15.3 Mt/year (Imran et al. 2014). About 40 lakhs metric tons (4 million Mt) of coal and wood (also tires and rubbers) are burnt each year in the brickfields around Dhaka city, impairing city's and suburbs' air quality and hampering the biological process of flora and fauna in the region. They are the major source of particulate matter in Dhaka city during the dry season (38%), followed by motor vehicle (19%) and road dust (18%) (Begum et al. 2010). Despite these drawbacks, traditional kilns are still in use because of low investment cost, cheap fuel and cheap labor force. FCKs operate only during dry winter season which allows them to use open air storage for muddy Katcha bricks (green bricks) in rain-free weather (see Figure 1).
In 2010 Bangladesh government released a notification of banning all traditional brickfields (Croitoru and Sarraf, 2012), In 2013 the government issued an amendment on the Brick Burning Laws with following location guidelines.
A. A brickfield cannot be established within 1 km. buffer of the populated places (residential, commercial or conserved area), homesteads, cropland, forest, ecologically sensitive area, sanctuary, wetland, and Degraded Air Shed.
B. Cannot be established within 2 km. buffer of the govt. designated forest.
C. Not within 0.5 km. buffer of any Upazila (sub-district) road, Union (one level lower than the sub-district) road or Village road.
D. Not within 1 km. of any special structure, railway, hospital (including clinic), research facility or similar entities.
E. For hilly areas, a brickfield cannot be established within 0.5 km. from the base of the hill.
However, the presence of such laws are more of illustrative than effective because the transformation have not taken place yet.
Despite of all the negative effects of brickfields the government has not shown enough interest in studying the brickfield sector objectively. Some interesting studies were conducted by domestic and foreign autonomous institutes which are mainly concentrated on quantifying and predicting pollution (Imran et al. 2014; Guttikunda et al. 2012; Ahmed and Hossain, 2008; Gurjar et al. 2008; BUET, 2007), and analysis of alternative technologies (Croitoru and Sarraf, 2012; World Bank, 2010). However, the government do not have any up-to-date spatial inventory of the brickfields; nor they know how many of these brickfields' locations conform to the establishment guidelines (amendment 2013). It is also not known that how many people and how much of land covers are at high risk of pollution due to their proximity to the brickfields. Without these information in hand getting a grasp of the severity of the problem and making policy and planning decisions are difficult. DOT 'N' ARC has conducted a through analysis to answer above mentioned questions with three objectives.
- To map the distribution and identify spatial pattern of active brickfields for the year 2015 using high resolution imagery.
- To assess the conformity of brickfields location to the government set guidelines.
- To quantify the population and landuse areas at risk at close proximity to the brickfields.
Study Area and Brief Methodology
Six districts (Dhaka, Narayanganj, Gazipur, Munshiganj, Manikganj and Narshingdi) and one Upazila (Mirzapur Upazila of Tangail district which has high density of brickfields located adjacent to Dhaka and Gazipur district) comprises the study area which is about 7,791 sq.km (see Figure 2).
The study area was divided into 945 grids with dimensions of 5X3 km. Brickfields in each grid were digitized by visual interpretation of high resolution (0.5m) imagery of Google Earth for the year 2015. Cautions were taken to use only visually contrast cloud-free imagery and to identify only active brick fields (brickfields with chimney attached to it). The location points were then analyzed by administrative areas and by distances as outlined in the brick burning Amendment (2013). Secondary spatial dataset such as population grid from Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) (100m), landuse grid from European Space Agency (ESA) (300m), road network from Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) and protected area data from World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) along with brickfields locations were leveraged to identify the risks using spatial analytical tools of a Geographic Information System (GIS). Finally risk maps were prepared for each indicator to identify highest to lowest risk zones.
What Have We Learned?
The digital inventory of DOT 'N' ARC have identified 1,572 active brick fields in Greater Dhaka Region. Their spatial analysis shows that most of these brickfields (501 in total, 33%) are concentrated in Dhaka district, followed by Gazipur, Narayanganj, Narshingdi, Munshiganj and Manikganj. Top three Upazilas hold about 14%, 13.6% and 9% of the total brickfields; and top 5 Upazilas account for more than 50% of all brick fields.
Most of the brickfields are within 15 km. distance from Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) area while a large sum of 321 are within 5 km. distance. Surprisingly there are few brickfields within DCC boundary located mainly along the Balu, Turag and Buriganga rivers. These numbers suggest that the brickfields are largely dependent on Dhaka City and surrounding satellite towns for their sales.
Conformity to the Brickfield Establishment Act of 2013
Total 15 brick fields found to be within 2 km. distance Gazipur Bhawal National Park which is a protected forest - an indication of weak environmental law enforcement situation. Most of the brickfields are found to be within 0.5 km. of local roads such as village road, Union road or Upazila road primarily constructed by Local Government Engineering Department (LGED). This suggests that brickfields are using local roads for the transport of bricks, impacting the rural mobility and spreading pollutants upon transportation routes and social institutions (such as school, hospital, working places etc.) nearby. Almost all brickfields are located within 1 km. of populated places such as rural homesteads or urban areas, therefore impacting the health of people, cattle, trees and crops.
The analysis using Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)’s population grid (100m spatial resolution) shows that total 353 thousand (3 lakh 53 thousand) people are living within 1 km. distance from the brick fields (average 7,901 persons). And if the distance threshold increased up to 2 km., the population figure rises by 2.5 times.
Thousands of hectares of cropland and homesteads (houses with trees and home gardens) are within 1 km. distance from brickfields, which is about 83% of all landuse areas. The landuse data of European Space Agency (ESA) for the year 2000 was leveraged for this analysis. The statistics can be improved with high resolution landuse map.
The hotspot clusters of brickfields are mainly located in close proximity to DCC and other satelite towns. All 1,578 brickfields disobeyed at least two location guideline laid out by the government, suggesting a weak law enforcement situation. Thousands of people and acres of homestead and croplands are at high risk of pollution as they are located at close proximity to the brickfields.
Previous modeling studies suggests that the particulate matters (PM2.5, PM10) in the DCC area during dry season are mainly originates from the brickfields around Dhaka city. It raises the question whether the establishment distance guidelines (amendment 2013) are actually based on any scientific study or an arbitrary one. The Department of Environment (DOE), other relevant agencies and law enforcement entities should take necessary steps to either modernize the brickfields or move them to a industrial zone away from people and habitats to reduce their adverse impacts.
Although most of the air pollution studies by Department of Environment (DOE), Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR) and Bangladesh Atomic Energy Centre (BAEC) are concentrated on vehicle and industrial pollution, none of them were focused on brickfields. The government should take proactive role in studying the pollution and the effects on crops, trees and population (including cattle's) health to understand the establishment distance threshold and severity gradient over space; and make planning decisions and enforce laws accordingly.
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Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), 2007. Small Study on Air Quality Impacts of the North Dhaka Brickfield Cluster by Modeling of Emissions and Sug- gestions for Mitigation Measures Including Financing Models, Chemical Engineering Department, Dhaka.
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