Dhaka is perhaps the world’s most polluted and heavily populated city. The fast pace of change and increasing industrialization are coupled with a near complete lack of regulations or protections on human health, labor, safety or the environment.
The brick kilns of Dhaka’s Savar District—exemplifying the worst conditions—are killing people. The production of bricks at kilns involves the burning of biomass, coal, used tires, etc., and the constant burning creates a toxic haze that settles over everything.
Mixed with the toxic fumes from nearby unregulated manufacturing, the air, soil and water are heavily polluted. In general, Dhaka’a air particulate concentrations are more than 90 times greater than the levels recommended by the World Health Organization.
With the rising demand for construction materials to carter to the infrastructure growth, the brick manufacturing industry in Bangladesh has risen dramatically. Therefore, brickfields have thrived and mushroomed all over the country with heavy concentration at the outskirts of cities and towns. The brick making industry in Bangladesh is transitioning slowly towards mechanization, they are largely using inefficient, dirty technology, informal seasonal employment methods and haphazard growth. The unplanned development of the brick industry is completely unsustainable.
One kiln produces some 48,000 kilograms of carbon monoxide in one season, the Bangla calendar year is traditionally divided into six seasons, and there are more than 5000 kilns in Bangladesh producing some 15 billion bricks annually, valued at US$640 million.
This story focuses on the people and kilns along the Buriganga River in Dhaka’s Savar District. ~
Some recent (2019) reports about air quality and pollution due to brick kilns indicate that several hundred brick kilns around the capital Dhaka “were responsible for 82 per cent of Dhaka’s air pollution turning it into the top-ranked unlivable city on earth.”