Modern cleaner and more efficient brick kilns are increasing in number in a development that augurs well for the country's efforts to reduce air pollution.
Conventional Chimney Ovens (FCK) emit large amounts of carbon dioxide and other environmental pollutants into the atmosphere every year, causing adverse impacts on health, agricultural yields and climate.
Until February of this year, 121 modern brick kilns, including the Hoffman Kiln (HHK) hybrid oven and the tunnel kiln, have been established and new furnaces are to be Months ahead, said the Ministry of Environment (DoE).
"Investors have realized that the days of making bricks through the traditional method are over," said DoE's director, Md Ziaul Haque.
The pace of change towards modern, environmentally friendly brick manufacturing technologies resumed after the DoE, instead of issuing environmental permit certificates for conventional ovens, began encouraging Entrepreneurs to use improved technologies.
The Government has also begun to implement the Brick and Furnace (Control) Act of 2013 in July 2014 to combat air pollution, deforestation, loss of land fertility and protection of public health.
The law prohibits the use of wood for firing bricks and soil from agricultural land and hills as raw material for making bricks.
It also encourages the conversion of conventional brick kilns into energy efficient and environmentally friendly appliances such as HHK, zigzag, automatic or tunnel kilns.
Demand for bricks is on the rise as more and more infrastructure projects are underway in the country, which is seeing its economy grow by more than 6% each year.
Until February, 4,227 brick roads out of the 6,646 were converted into modern ones. On them, 4,108 kilns have been transformed into zigzag or improved zigzag furnaces and the rest into HHK and tunnel kilns, according to DoE.
About 2.541 FCK are still to be converted into modern ovens, according to DoE data.
DoE Haque said that the conventional brick kilns will be phased out.
Bangladesh produces 1,720 pieces of bricks each year, according to a 2011 World Bank report. The Washington-based multilateral lender in its report predicts that demand will increase by 3 to 3 percent per year for the next ten Years.
Modern brick kilns accounted for nearly 170 pieces crore, according to BN Dulal, general secretary of the Bangladesh Auto Brick Manufacturers Association.
Demand for bricks made by modern furnaces is increasing, especially from those who are building green structures, said Rabiul Ahsan, CEO of Stone Bricks Ltd, which has the ability to produce 3 lakh brick pieces every day .
"We had to do a lot of marketing to educate people about the bricks of automated furnaces," he added.
The pace of investment in modern and automated tunnel kilns has increased in recent years due to the extension of low – cost loans by banks and financial institutions, he said .
In September 2012, the Bank of Bangladesh set up a $ 50 million refinancing loan system to encourage automatic and environmentally friendly brick kilns in the country . The Asian Development Bank provided the fund.
The state infrastructure development company Ltd. (Idcol) has also begun to provide low cost financing for the establishment of automatic tunnel kilns, environment. Idcol has so far approved a total of TK 147 crore loans for six automatic brick manufacturing projects, and three of the furnaces are expected to enter service this year, said a senior official of the state financier.
Modern ovens are capable of producing more bricks than conventional ovens, according to Dulal.
Although modern furnaces require higher investment, these are profitable in the long run, said Dulal, who also set up a tunnel kiln that is expected to enter service in July-August this year.
Tunnel kilns or HHK can produce more bricks compared to traditional kilns. Such furnaces also save land and reduce environmental pollution, he said.
However, the number of modern brick kilns has not increased according to expectations, said Md Adu Bakar, general secretary of the Bangladesh Brick Manufacturing Owners Association.
"The establishment of such furnaces requires large investments and the banks do not want to lend to traditional owners of small brick stoves." Some big investors come to install these kilns, "he added.
The director of DoE, Haque, said that it was necessary to declare that the sector of the brick was an industry to increase the number of modern brick kilns. "We are also considering an alternative brick production system, which does not allow the use of topsoil".