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Dhubri brick kilns posing threat to farmland

By AF Ashiqure Rahman

GOLAKGANJ, Jan 21 � The brick industry surrounding Dhubri district has been posing severe environmental problems since quite sometime now. Drastic increase in the pollution level has affected most of the prime agricultural land nearby.

More than 1,000 areas of prime agricultural land are being lost annually to accommodate the brick-making industry. The soil, which is very fertile in this area, is used in the building units as is to be found in abundance in the plains. Obviously, it is mercilessly exploited. The underground fire in the kiln reduces the surrounding soil moisture and unplanned hacking of the land alters the drainage pattern of the area. The effect of all this on agriculture is disastrous, to say the least.

The vast stretches of once-green agricultural land, portions of which are dug away, is creating a sudden interference in the cropping pattern. Against this backdrop stands a jet black chimney spewing jet black smoke. Stacks of bricks are piled everywhere. This is the sight that meets the eye of a traveller journeying past Bally, or driving down the national highway through Gauripur, Chapar and Bilasipara in Dhubri district.

A little way off, the rectangular pieces of moulded mud are baked into terracota red bricks. For the record, its no small industry. Today, the largest number of brick kilns are found in Dhubri district. Additionally, there are a large number of kilns in Bilasipara, Chapar and Gauripur, besides in Dhubri district.

Since ancient times, Dhubri district was famous for her excellent soil quality and high crop yield. Today, Dhubri has at least 250 brick kilns. In fact, even Asharikandi has 19 brick kilns extending over an area of 2,000 bighas of the aforementioned agricultural land.

In Dhubri, rural poverty has reached phenomenal dimensions. The brick kiln owners are powerful enough to buy out even the last pieces of fertile land from the seemingly half-fed farmers. Meanwhile, the dug-up land is naturally deeper than the surrounding paddy fields. During the monsoon, water from the rice fields drain off into the dug-up portions. As standing water is a must for paddy cultivation, hence this altered drainage pattern plays havoc with rice production.

To add to the farmers� woes is the ash (burnt mud) from the nearby brick kilns, which affects soil fertility. The fire from the kilns absorb soil moisture. Besides, the enormous heat generated underground is bound to alter the chemical composition deeper below. This is slowly but surely going to change soil character in Dhubri.

Putul Chandra Roy Prodhani, adviser of Dhubri district AASU while talking to the mediapersons informed that the organisation on behalf of the local people has demanded the Deputy Commissioner for necessary action and compensation to the farmers affected by the industry.

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