Thick smoke and fly ash spills from coal burning have caused considerable damage to vast tracts of boro paddy and other crops in two upazilas of the district.
The burning of high-sulphur coal in nearby brick kilns has contaminated about 150 acres of boro paddy in Amrulbari village of Badarganj and Machhari village of Kounia.
Affected farmers blame the owners of A&B and UBL, located in the neighbourhoods, for coal burning and destroying their crops in just two days – with the harvest season due very soon.
Abdul Hamid, an affected farmer of Amrulbari village, said his boro paddy on five acres of land was totally destroyed.
“I was hoping I would be able to harvest my crops within two weeks but black smoke and ash spills from the UBL brickfield destroyed the whole field,” said.
Serajul Islam, another farmer of the same village, said his paddy on 3 acres of land had dried up and all plants have been “turned into fodder”.
Farmers of Machhari village have also said their plants dried under the impact of the indiscriminate burning of coal in A&B and due to the dust nuisance. They fear they will not achieve the expected returns on their cultivation this year.
Besides boro paddy, maize cultivated on 30 acres of land in the village is also at risk.
Ansar Ali of Machhari said the leaves of his maize plants were yellowing, which he fears would impact the volume of production.
According to the villagers, the smoke from the brickfields is also affecting a large number of trees including mango, jackfruit and bamboo.
Farmers said they were having trouble growing crops since when the two brick kilns went into operation. They said they had requested the concerned agricultural authorities to take steps in this regard; otherwise they would “incur sizeable crop losses” on a regular basis.
Firoz Akhand, a sub-assistant agriculture officer of Badarganj Upazila Agriculture Office, said he had visited the affected boro and maize fields and found “signs of crop damage”.
“I made a list of affected farmers and submitted it to the upazila nirbahi officer of Badarganj,” said.
In this regard, the Deputy Director of Rangpur Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) Firoz Ahmod said he had been informed about the matter and had in turn informed the deputy commissioner of the district.
“The incidents of crop damages may be due to the burning of environmentally hazardous, high-sulphur coal imported from India. While burning, this type of coal emits poisonous sulphur dioxide which can be pretty dangerous for the environment,” he said.
Farid Ahmod, the deputy commissioner, told the Dhaka Tribune that he had asked the proprietors of the two brick fields to compensate affected farmers for their losses.
However, he did not say anything about removing the kilns in line with the farmers’ appeal.