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Ecological questionPhoto Essays

Take me somewhere else

Take me somewhere else, photo essay by Ahmed Rasel

[T]here was a brickfield near my village home. Then I was a small child. The brickfield used to fascinate me. Particularly, when I found workers making bricks from clay in a magical way. It created a different impact on me, especially when the chimneys puffing grey smoke into the air. We the kids used to play hide and sick in the abandoned brickfield. Many years later when I have started watching and shooting brickfields, which are far away from my native home, I started feeling sad to foresee the consequences of the brickfields. The consequences have taken away my childhood day’s sweet memories. It’s a metamorphosis of brickfields to brick kilns.

I had a trip to Satkhira (one south-western district of Bangladesh nearby Sundarbans and India – Bangladesh border). In the late evening, while I was laying on a dark roof in a shrimp nursery, suddenly, I saw smoke in the sky through the leaves of a tree. When I looked carefully I found that chimneys pouring grey smokes into the. I was shocked and disturbed. Instantly, I decided something has to be done with my camera.
There are over 100 brick kilns in Satkhira district. At least 50 of the brick fields in the district are using firewood instead of coal. As a result, hundreds of trees are disappearing and the climate is changing day by day, posing a serious threat to the environment.
Like Satkhira, everywhere in Bangladesh one can see them. The long chimneys along the rivers, in the countryside, surrounding the cities, puffing grey smoke. The workers with low wage and without any dignity make millions of bricks. As environment is concerned Bangladesh has to pay the price with its 160 million populace. Since the country is urbanizing rapidly there is a high demand for cheap building materials, which has led brick making, a 150 age old tradition, has been thriving in the recent times.

According to the Department of Environment (DoE), there are about 6,356 brickfields in the country. Though, environmentalists claim the number is much more higher like around 10,000 and half of them are located around the capital city, Dhaka. According to UNDP estimate, Bangladesh produces some 8.66 billion bricks a year at a value of $450 million almost 1 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
The emission of toxic elements from brick kilns is causing serious health hazards. The brick kilns spew poisonous and contaminated vapour containing suspended particulate matters rich in carbon particles and high concentration of carbon monoxides and sulphur oxides, which are harmful to eyes, lungs and throats. Most of the brick fields were set up in the country without any clear environmental guidelines, resulting in loss of fertility of farmlands. Also nearly 25 to 26 per cent of the country’s wood is used for burning bricks every year, causing deforestation. These forests are under threat of losing the environmental and ecological balance.
So, my photo essay carries the above said information but at the same time it goes beyond the information to make it aesthetically strong.

Satkhira, BANGLADESH – May 2015. Walkway through a brick field in Satkhira.
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