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    Brick Manufacturing and Public Health in Bangladesh

    On 14 August 2018, Dr. Stephen Luby from Stanford University came to NSU for a talk on the topic “Brick Manufacturing and Public Health in Bangladesh”. This event was organized by the Office of External Affairs and was a direct result of the NSU delegation trip’s visit to Stanford University in April. Brick manufacturing in South Asia causes substantial adverse environmental and health outcomes. He informing how there are many determinants of health-related problems that lay outside the health sector and to preventing them requires efforts outside the health sector and often outside the Ministry of Health’s control. Dr. Luby explained that out of the top four leading risk factors—Dietary risks, Tobacco smoke, High blood pressure, and Air pollution—three operate outside the health sector. Pneumonia is the leading cause of child death in Bangladesh and globally. Influenza is another leading disease rampant in Bangladesh. Then he mentioned there are stages of research in public health problem solving. They are: Identifying a problem, Explicating the causal paths that generates the problem, Developing an intervention to interrupt generation of the problem, Piloting the intervention, Rigorously testing the intervention, and Scaling up the intervention. Afterwards, Dr. Luby shifted to brick manufacturing in Bangladesh. According to the sampling of air at the Atomic Energy Centre, brick kilns account for 91% of black carbon. In Bangladesh, current brick production is≈25 billion/year which is expected to increase two to three times in the next twenty years. This projection is applicable to all over South Asia. There are over four thousand fixed brick kilns in Bangladesh which are responsible for the generation of black carbon and particulate matter. Dr. Luby furthered his argument by showing the history of brick manufacturing regulations in Bangladesh. In 2001, the government issued a policy stating kilns cannot be allowed within three kilometers of urban areas and this was not enforced. In 2007, a new policy was created where alternative fuels were prioritized in order to reduce the use of coal and this too was not enforced. The latest policy made in 2010, stating the banning of fixed chimney kilns by 2012 was postponed. Therefore, the implementation of such regulations became an impossible task. Dr. Luby suggested a few ways to reduce air pollution from brick manufacturing such as, Particulate after-burner (effectively eliminates particulate matters from various non-point source polluters), Natural Draft Zig Zag Kiln (reduces coal consumption by 25% per brick and black carbon emission by 85%), and more. Dr. Luby also mentioned the three financial streams that can transform the brick sector. They are: private investors lending money for kiln upgrades which is repaid with interest by the kiln owner, Global climate mitigation funders providing funding for decrease in black carbon emission, and initial catalytic philanthropic funding to demonstrate proof of principle. At the end of the day, the ultimate objective of this is to transform the ways bricks are and can be manufactured in Bangladesh (and eventually across South Asia) so that they generate less harm to the environment and health. After the talk, Dr. Luby was presented with a crest and a bouquet of flowers as tokens of appreciation and was invited to come to NSU again in the future.

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