The conventional brick and its manufacturing process have been contributing to the environmental damage of Bangladesh for a long time.
The use of concrete blocks or eco-friendly bricks can play an important role in mitigating environmental and climate disasters.
A large amount of cropland and hill soil is cut for brick construction at brick kilns. Innumerable plants are destroyed every year to use as fuel. In addition, the use of low-quality coal to burn bricks is increasing carbon emissions and causing serious air pollution. Moreover, in some places, brick kilns have been established illegally closer to residential areas.
Housing and Building Research Institute (HBRI), under the Ministry of Housing and Public Works, has been working for a long time to promote the use of eco-friendly blocks instead of bricks.
According to HBRI, using concrete blocks as an alternative to bricks can reduce the construction cost by 25 to 40 percent.
Ahsan Habib, Senior Research Officer (Building Material) of HBRI told Bangladesh Post that concrete blocks could play a significant role in reducing environmental pollution that is increased by burning clay bricks in brick kilns.
“Buildings constructed with blocks are earthquake resistant, keep the interior cool during summer and warm during winter. Moreover, the walls of the buildings built with these blocks do not require plastering as the blocks are made with cement and gravel. Therefore, the infrastructures are also light-weight,” he said.
He also mentioned that dredged river sand is used in making concrete blocks. Thus the unusable sand is utilized and it also helps increase the navigability of rivers.
The government issued a notification in 2019 mandating the use of blocks as an alternative to bricks in terms of all government construction, repair and renovation works, building walls and boundary walls for the purpose of reducing the use of soil under the Brick Manufacturing and Brick Kiln Establishment (Control) Act, 2013 (Amended 2019).
A target was set by the government to ensure the use of blocks in the government's construction projects -30 percent by the fiscal year 2021-2022, 60 percent by 2022-2023, 80 percent by 2023-2024, and 100 percent by the fiscal year 2024-2025.
However, officials of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change said they could not provide the information regarding the extent to which the government's directives were implemented.
Keya Khan, Additional Secretary (EPC) of Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change told Bangladesh Post that a meeting was held recently regarding the progress of compulsory use of 100 percent eco-friendly blocks instead of burnt bricks in the government construction tender schedule.
“We do not have any information at the moment regarding the extent to which the target of using blocks has been achieved. However, some of the representatives in charge of government constructions said that due to the unavailability or shortage of blocks, its usage could not be ensured in government constructions,” she said.
Talking to Bangladesh Post, Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) Chief Executive Syeda Rizwana Hasan said, “Fertile topsoil is being used in all brick kilns of Bangladesh for manufacturing the conventional bricks. As a result, the amount of agricultural land is decreasing and the possibility of a food crisis is increasing. Use of eco-friendly blocks will play a significant role in reducing air pollution.”
She further said that if the mandatory usage of blocks, and the target set by the government cannot be monitored, it will not be possible to ensure the target by 2025.
She also said that the government should take initiatives towards the usage of blocks made with gravel and plastic bottles within the next three years to save the environment.