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Toxic smog from Panchagarh brick kilns destroys crops, plants

  • Published at 10:54 am April 24th, 2019
web-Panchagarh brick kilns destroys crops, plants`
File photo of a brick kiln in Panchagarh Dhaka Tribune

Chemical radiation continues to affect new crops  despite emissions having ceased

Toxic smoke emitted from a Panchagarh brick kiln has scorched crops on hundreds of acres of land and vegetation surrounding the area.

This incident occurred when a brick kiln named KSB, in Shimultali village of Dandapal union— under Debiganj upazila of the district—began producing poisonous smog. Local farmers said crops—such as boro rice, nuts, corn, and other plants—were also destroyed. 

About 50 farmers have incurred immense losses due to this gas. In additions to crops, the deadly smoke also singed mango, jackfruit, and olive trees — along with the bamboo shrubs surrounding the area.

Although the gas emissions have stopped , the toxic chemical radiation is still affecting the plants and new crops.

Locals said the KSB brick kiln was closed off for this year on the night of April 19, when the toxic and mal-odorous smoke started to ooze from its chimney. Although farmers did not realize the extent of damage that night, the next morning they found that crops and tree leaves had begun to shrivel.

In the afternoon, farmers noticed that the plants looked like they have been scorched, and the  leaves and fruits began falling off the trees. Because of this radiation, Shimultali, Nayanpara, and other nearby villages suffered severe damages. The affected farmers have demanded compensation for their losses.

Basanti Rani, 38, of Nayanpara village, said leaves of mango and jackfruit trees surrounding her residence have withered and the fruits have fallen off the trees.

Fonibhushon Chandra Roy, 50, said rice crops on almost one acre of his land has burned, adding that: "I spent Tk20,000 to cultivate boro rice after leasing this farmland. I am a day-labourer. I leased this land after saving my hard-earned money. I have no capital left."

Part of the list from Panchagarh deputy commissioner's office shows clearance status of brick kilns |Dhaka TribuneDandapal Union Parishad member Mashiur Rahman said: "Preparations are underway to compile a list of victims. So far, we have information that crops on around 50 acres of land —of about 40 farmers—were destroyed. This incident has been shared with the senior authorities, and we are having discussions with the brick kiln owner about providing compensations to the farmers."

Sources from the district administration said around 70 brick kilns in five upazilas of the district had been constructed over farmland after excavating its topsoil — damaging the arability of the land.

According to the list of brick kilns, from the deputy commissioner's office, the KSB brick kiln did possess a clearance certificate from the Department of Environment when it was first built. However, once they adopted zig-zag kiln technology, they did not renew their clearance certificate, which needs to be renewed every year.

Debiganj Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Prottoy Hasan said: "We have received an oral complaint regarding this incident, and are prepared to take action."

Meanwhile, the brick kiln authorities could not imagine that something like this could happen while closing off the brick kiln. KSB brick kiln Manager Shamsul Haque said: "We have been making bricks in this brick kiln for 22 years. But this is the first time such an incident has occurred."

However, when the owner of  brick kiln Jewel Chowdhury was contacted over phone, he did not receive the call.

The local agriculture department has been giving recommendations so that radiation does not harm any more crops. The Department of Agricultural Extension in the upazila instructed farmers to disinfect the singed crops with fungicide to prevent further damage. 

Agriculture Officer Shamim Iqbal of Debiganj Agricultural Extension Department said: "Various suggestions are being provided to avoid further damage a list of the victims is being compiled."