Why highly polluting methods are used to manufacture bricks in Bangladesh

Stephen P. Luby, Debashish Biswas, Emily S. Gurley, Ijaz Hossain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Brick kilns in Bangladesh use inefficient coal burning technology that generates substantial air pollution. We investigated the incentives of stakeholders in brick manufacturing in Bangladesh to help inform strategies to reduce this pollution. A team of Bangladeshi anthropologists conducted in-depth interviews with brick buyers, kiln owners, and Department of Environment employees. Brick buyers reported that bricks manufactured in traditional kilns worked well for most construction purposes and cost 40% less than bricks manufactured in more modern, less polluting, kilns. Brick kiln owners favored approaches with rapid high return on a modest investment. They preferred kilns that operate only during the dry season, allowing them to use cheaper low-lying flood plain land and inexpensive seasonal labor. The Department of Environment employees reported that many kilns violate environmental regulations but shortages of equipment and manpower combined with political connections of kiln owners undermine enforcement. The system of brick manufacturing in Bangladesh is an economic equilibrium with the manufacture of inexpensive bricks supplying the demand for construction materials but at high cost to the environment and health of the population. Low-cost changes to improve kiln efficiency and reduce emissions could help move toward a more socially desirable equilibrium.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)68-74
Number of pages7
JournalEnergy for Sustainable Development
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Air pollution
  • Bangladesh
  • Bricks
  • Coal
  • Incentives
  • Kilns

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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