The Work

Khaled Hasan has documented old and new brick kiln technology in his home country of Bangladesh. He compares 150-year-old traditional brick kiln technology which is energy and resource intensive and has negative environmental impacts such as land degradation, depletion of water resources and deforestation with new imported Hybrid Hoffman Kiln (HHK) technology which is less resource intensive, more energy efficient, more productive and which produces significantly less carbon emissions.

Every year a staggering 8.6 billion bricks are produced in Bangladesh from over 8,000 brick kiln sites, a number which increases annually at a rate of 5.2% with the upward trend in urbanisation. Traditional brick making in Bangladesh produces a toxic mix of carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide and ash, which are harmful to both human health and the environment. Most of the brickfields in Bangladesh employ low wage labourers on a seasonal basis who reside in basic accommodation with poor sanitation. The work is both physically demanding and dangerous but the workers receive little protection or healthcare.

A new UNDP project, supported by the Global Environment Facility, uses Hybrid Hoffman Kiln (HHK) technology imported from Germany to make green bricks. A single new kiln can produce 15 million bricks annually (instead of 100,000) and carbon emissions from each kiln are reduced by as much as 5,000 tons per year. The new kilns are less resource intensive and far more efficient as they use internal fuel and reuse waste heat. The HHK technology also creates better working conditions; the mechanised processes reduce the need for hard manual labour which particularly benefits the women, the workers have adequate protective gear and the provision of year round work creates economic stability in the workforce.

 

  • There are over 8000 brickfields in Bangladesh, nearly half of which are illegal but the industry is largely unmonitored. Most are located in the outskirts of Dhaka, the fastest growing megacity in the world, with a population of over 16 million.

    Whilst they contribute significantly to the economy, they cause irreversible harm to human health and the environment.

  • A traditional brick kiln requires 23 tons of coal to produce just 100,000 bricks. Under existing laws brick kilns are allowed to use coal or gas to keep their furnaces burning. But many operate illegally using worn tyres, cow dung, battery cases and plastic materials as a cheap form of fuel.

    Further, 33% of the kilns use firewood, which is a significant cause of deforestation in Bangladesh.

  • The brickfield workers have strong muscles from the physical work but many have weak immune systems because of the sustained exposure to pollutants. Bangladesh is rated as having some of the worst air quality in the world, causing an estimated 15,000 premature deaths a year in Dhaka alone, according to The Air Quality Management Project (AQMP).
  • The manual work is physically demanding and the labourers have only very basic tools to work with. They utilise handmade headpieces to carry several bricks on their heads at a time.
  • The brickfield labourers work in poor conditions in the stifling heat and have no protective gear. As migrant workers, they receive no healthcare from their employers and they earn less than $2 a day.
  • The brickfield industry engages a vast number of women workers who work very hard physically but they do not receive equal wages to men.
  • Farzana says: “Women work just as hard as men but we get lower wages. This discrimination is common for most industries in Bangladesh.”
  • Officially children are banned from working in the brickfields, but these regulations are seldom observed. Children as young as ten are known to work in the traditional brickfields.
  • At the end of the day, the labourers lay down to take rest but the hard work and lack of protective gear leaves behind scars on their bodies. Many of them suffer from skin and respiratory problems.
  • In the evening, the workers rest, play card games, listen to the radio or gossip – there is no other source of entertainment.
  • Over 95% of Bangladesh’s brickfields are seasonal, operating from December to April, as the rest of the year is subject to heavy flooding. At the start of the monsoon season in June, most workers return to their villages to work in other seasonal industries.
  • The UNDP project, which has imported the new Hybrid Hoffman Kiln technology to Bangladesh, has significantly reduced resource needs and pollution and has increased energy efficiency and production. Most of the fuel used in the Hybrid Hoffman kilns is completely burnt during firing. This energy efficiency in turn reduces the production cost of the bricks.
  • The bricks are dried in a tunnel by funnelling hot air from the annular kiln. This process results in significant reduction in CO2 emissions. This technology also allows better thermal bonding and produces a better quality of green brick.
  • These tunnels contain nearly 80 to 90 thousand bricks at a time. The production capacity is at least six times higher than in traditional kilns. A minimum of 15 million bricks can be produced annually from a single Hybrid Hoffman kiln.
  • The workers have to climb up onto the furnace to fuel it. In traditional brick kilns, the surface is very hot and the only protection the workers have is a pair of wooden thongs. In the HHK furnace, heat is trapped on the inside so it is not as hot to walk on and workers also have protective footwear.
  • In the new factories working conditions are improved and the workers receive safety gear. Employers care more about their employee’s health and their wages are higher. Further, the new brick kilns can be operated all year round, creating sustainable employment opportunities in the brick making industry.
  • Women workers are more efficient at the HHK factories - they can improve productivity using technical rather than just physical skills. Shrimoti Jostna Rani says: “The working conditions are better here than in traditional factories. We don’t get discriminated against for being female.”
| of 17 Play |

The Photographer

Khaled Hasan

Khaled Hasan has been working as a photographer since 2001. Based in Bangladesh he is interested in telling the stories of the land that shaped him. His main focus is to document injustice, human rights, human survival, nature and the environment. For Khaled, a story never really ends but by documenting key moments and significant changes in history, photography provides a unique service which transcends time. For Khaled, it is not just about being a good photographer, it’s also about being a socially responsible person. He finds fulfillment whenever his works benefit his community and the greater good.

Khaled has worked as a freelance photographer for several publications in Bangladesh and abroad. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Sunday Times Magazine, American Photo, National Geographic Society, Better Photography, Saudi Aramco World Magazine, The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Independent, The New Internationalist and Himal Southern. He has won many prestigious awards including: Samdani Artist Development Award (2012), BINUS International Photo Competition Indonesia (2011), 6th DAYS Japan Photojournalism Awards (2010), Mark Grosset Documentary Prize France (2009), Humanity Photo Documentary Jury Awards, UNESCO, China (2009), CIWEM’s Environmental Photographer of the Year UK (2009), Alexia Foundation Award USA (2009), All Roads Photography Award, National Geographic Society (2008).

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FotoEnvironment 2012 - 2013