Air pollution generated by brick kilns results in over 6,000 premature adult deaths in Bangladesh and 24,000 excess deaths in India, Moogdho Mahzab, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University, USA, said on Friday at a session of the annual development conference arranged by the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS).
While presenting a paper, entitled "Transforming Brick Manufacturing to Promote Clean Air and Better Health in Bangladesh," on the second day of the three-day summit, he showed that black carbon and greenhouse gases emanating from brick kilns across South Asia are equivalent to the climate impact from the entire US passenger car fleet.
He said, in Bangladesh 7,000 brick kilns produce 27 billion bricks each year, generating 11% of particulate matter (PM), 22% of black carbon, and 17% of total annual CO2 emissions.
"Expensive modern kilns have failed over the past 30 years. We aim to improve the practices of current brick manufacturers," he added.
Since 2013, the Bangladesh government has been promoting zigzag kilns (ZZK), which comprise about 80% of the industry now, he mentioned, adding that a correctly built and operated ZZK can reduce pollution, yet these gains are not realised.
He showed two primary barriers – a lack of knowledge about proper operation and a lack of skills to implement and inattention to the incentives of workers whose cooperation is crucial to running an efficient kiln.
These barriers can be addressed through a randomised intervention: intervention to change production methods; reducing human trafficking and improving working conditions and inventing a new device to reduce pollution, he added.
Another paper, titled "Governance and Business Model Innovations that Can Reduce Pollution from Lead Acid Batteries in Bangladesh'', – presented at the event by Erica Plambeck, professor of Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, USA, and Amrita Kundu, assistant professor of Operations and Information Management at Georgetown University, USA – showed that children in Bangladesh lose IQ at the blood level of 1μg/dL. Damage increases with a rise in the blood lead level, it added.
Some 29 million or about 60% of children in Bangladesh have a blood lead level above 5 μg/dL, the average blood lead level among children tested in Bangladesh is 8 μg/dL, and around 21 million or 44% of children in Bangladesh have a blood lead level above 10 μg/dL.