According to Bangladesh Brick Manufacturing Owners Association, the country’s existing roughly 7,000 brick fields have been using around 1.27 billion cubic feet (cft) topsoil annually as a raw material for brick production
The price and availability of good bricks are a primary concern for consumers where the construction of a building is concerned.
However, a considerable amount of topsoil is lost annually to meet the demands of the industry.
According to Bangladesh Brick Manufacturing Owners Association, the country’s existing roughly 7,000 brick fields have been using around 1.27 billion cubic feet (cft) topsoil annually as a raw material for brick production.
Usually when topsoil is removed, the land remains uncultivable and fallow for the next three years, which ultimately reduces agricultural production.
However, Bangladesh Housing and Building Research Institute (HBRI) showed in their research that the country could save a huge amount of topsoil by simply using alternative bricks along with building materials instead of using traditional bricks.
The organization has already developed several alternative building materials including the compressed stabilized earth block (CSEB), interlocking CSEB, concrete hollow block, thermal block, aerated concrete, and ferro-cement sandwich panel, which can easily replace bricks and materials derived therein.
“These building materials can easily be used to construct buildings in the country’s urban and rural areas which will reduce the pressure of topsoil usage,” said Mohammad Shamim Akhter, director of HBRI, at a an event on Friday.
The discussion, titled Policy Discussion on Alternative Bricks, was jointly organized by Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) and HBRI, and held at the BUET auditorium.
Shamim also said that a state-owned research body had already been developed, and it demonstrated the alternative building materials successfully, highlighting the low production cost and longevity. However, these products somehow failed to get peoples’ attention.
As an example, the HBRI director also said the CSEB, made from the dredged soil of river mixed with proportionate amounts of cement could be produced at half the cost of conventional bricks.
However, for the last few years, the government has taken various initiatives, including constructing buildings and housing such as cyclone shelters for disaster prone areas and used these opportunities to popularize these materials and training local masons on using the materials.
Additionally, it has taken three years of a project named Promoting Sustainable Building in Bangladesh, under a program of the European Union named Switch Asia, to get to this point..
Recently, the prime minister directed government agencies to build their own infrastructures by using alternative bricks.
How brick making laws support the alternatives
The existing brick making laws have been incorporated into several projects.
This indirectly discourages conventional brick making and encourages the environmental variety.
To begin with, the law imposes a ban on using topsoil from agricultural land. At the same time, it defines agricultural land as those which produce crops more than once a year.
Syeda Rizwana Hasan, chief executive of BELA said: “Regarding alternative bricks, the existing law does not say anything except that a licence is not required.”
“Nevertheless, by discouraging the use of topsoil, the act goes in favour of alternative bricks and building materials as these do not use topsoil as a raw material,” she added.
The brick-making industry is one of the fastest growing in Bangladesh, bringning in an annual revenue of around Tk866 crore.