Bangladesh: Bye bye brick!

DHAKA (The Daily Star/ANN) - Bangladesh decides to end brick use in govt constructions by 2025 to reduce air pollution. 

Mohammad Al-Masum Molla

The government has decided to phase out the use of bricks by 2025 in all its construction works to reduce the air pollution as brick kilns are one of the key sources of air pollution in Bangladesh.    

As part of the government’s plan, it has decided to implement the plan from this fiscal year targeting to use concrete blocks for 10 percent of its construction projects.

“We are hopeful of achieving the target… But yes, it is tough to achieve 10 percent in this stage. But we have to start…,” Mahmud Hasan, additional secretary (Environment) of Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, told The Daily Star yesterday.

The government has issued a gazette on November 24 making the provision of using blocks instead of bricks in government construction projects mandatory.

It said that in order to make it mandatory, they will use blocks to construct walls of building, herringbone bond roads, and type B village roads to phase out the uses of bricks by 2025.

The prohibition, however, will not be applicable for constructing, repairing and modifying of bases and sub-bases of highways. 

It also said legal action would be taken in the case of any deviation of the mentioned timeframe of the work plan. 

“Under the Annual Development Programme, projects will be revised in December. We are hopeful that 10 percent provision of using blocks in construction works instead of bricks will be made mandatory,” said Ziaul Haque, director (Air Quality Management) of the Department of Environment (DoE).

Sources from the DoE and Housing and Building Research Institute (HBRI) said around 2,500 crore pieces of bricks were produced every year, from which around 45 percent is used by the government in different development projects.

Experts said the country is gradually phasing out clay bricks and embracing cost-effective and eco-friendly blocks.

The concept of environment-friendly buildings, or popularly known as “green buildings”, is catching on in Bangladesh. While the green building movement has been around globally since the 1970s, it has picked up momentum in Bangladesh only in the last couple of years as some big companies have started producing and using blocks.

Inspired by the ensuing demand and an urge to protect the environment, businesses of eco-friendly building materials have also increased in the past couple of years.

Researchers in Bangladesh have started conceptualising and developing new bricks to mitigate the environmental damage caused by brick manufacturing.

Mohammad Shamim Akhter, director general of HBRI, said to prepare bricks, it requires excavating around 60 million tonnes of topsoil, causing dust pollution and degradation of the ground.

He said that they have already developed a range of alternative, environmentally-friendly building materials for walls, floors, roofing and road construction, adding that the new materials will reduce environmental pollution and cut construction costs significantly.

Akhter said the price of construction of concrete blocks will be between Tk 4 to Tk 9. 

The products include bricks made of a compressed composite material consisting of river sand, cement and additional mixtures. River sand is a waste product in Bangladesh and the rivers require dredging on a regular basis.

HBRI officials said around 150-160 block preparing factories have already been established in Bangladesh since 1998 but they said there was a crisis of demand.

The new bricks are also lighter than the traditional ones, making them easier and cheaper to transport.

TM Shohabul Haque, quality control engineer of Master Group which produces blocks, said they are yet to get expected orders from the market as people, except city corporations, are still not using blocks.

“The government should come forward strictly to save the environment and also to save the agricultural land. The strength of blocks is stronger than traditional bricks as it is made of cement and sand,” he said.

He also said the cost of each block would be Tk 38 which is equivalent to 4.5 bricks.

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