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Stop destruction of topsoil for brickfields

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THE country is losing around 127 core cubic feet of topsoil annually that is used in brick manufacturing forcing arable land to lose fertility while the environment is facing growing pollution from brick field burning. Media reports said such practice is seriously affecting arable land and farm productivity every year and unless it is stopped or seriously regulated, its impact on agriculture will be too big. Obviously we can't resort to any practice, which will cost agricultural productivity seriously.

According to a 2016 Asian Development Bank (ADB) report, the country produces 22.71 billion pieces of bricks a year. In doing so, the Bank report says, the brick kiln sector consumes 3.5 million tonnes of coal and 1.9 million tonnes of firewood, emitting 9.8 million tonnes of greenhouse gas annually. The figure quoted in those reports amply speak of the big harm that the land and environment are coming under regularly.

It is noticeable that large-scale use of topsoil for brick making is doing more harms to agriculture in northern districts. It appears brick kiln is emerging as the big threat to land and nature as the number of kiln is growing annually. Kiln owners start topsoil collection after Aman harvest as they produce bricks mainly in dry winter season. But such collection depletes land's fertility and to recover the production loss farmers then use too much fertilizers and pesticides that affect fish population at the end along with production loss in the farmland.  
Topsoil is the portion of the ground that can be easily turned over by a ploughshare. Generally, topsoil contains all the nutrients and organic materials that plants or crops need to grow. Experts said large-scale use of farmlands' topsoil for producing bricks is badly affecting agriculture and causing harm to environment. Many marginal farmers are lured or forced into selling topsoil to wealthy and influential brick kiln owners but they suffered more loss at the end in terms of production loss. It also causes serious agonies to farmers, because farmland becomes uneven along with the fertility losses. Water stagnation in land causes rots in the paddy or weds grow in such water to affect crops.

In Lalmonirhat, around 2,500 bighas of farmlands lose their topsoil every year for brick manufacturing. The country now produces around 1,500 crore bricks every year at 6,900 brick kilns. Brick Burning Control Act, 1989 prohibits the use of topsoil where two crops are grown a year.  We know India and China have already prohibited collecting topsoil from agricultural land. Bangladesh's Brick Burning Control Act, 1989 (revised in 2013) also prohibits such use of soil growing two crops. Green activists said brick kilns are destroying fertile agricultural land and we can't allow it to run any more. In our view the government must apply the law to stop breaking the law forthwith.

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