Making bricks is serious business in Bangladesh. While exact numbers are hard to come by, estimates suggest the industry here employs more than one million people who churn out 23 billion bricks each year at some 7,000 kilns. Demand for bricks, too, is on the rise, following the growth of the construction industry amid an infrastructure boom. But whatever the dividends those kilns deliver to this rapidly developing country, the thousands of slender, cylindrical chimneys attached to them exact a heavy and offsetting toll. They punctuate the horizon in cities and towns across Bangladesh, including some 1,000 in the suburbs of the nation’s capital, Dhaka contributing mightily to what is considered some of the worst air pollution in the world. During the dry season, when brickmaking is going full tilt, dust and smoke from wood- and coal-fired kilns mingle with clouds of pollution rising from trash fires and vehicle engines, hanging over the city like fog. The kiln operations alone, that are representing just 1 percent of the country’s GDP, generate nearly 60 percent of the particulate pollution in Dhaka, according to Bangladesh’s Department of Environment (DOE).


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