The brick fields of Bangladesh and the people who work there

The brick fields of Bangladesh and the people who work there

adventure travel & photography

Destinations: Pakistan ◦◦ India ◦◦Turkey ◦◦ Egypt ◦◦ Bulgaria ◦◦ Mongolia ◦◦ Bangladesh ◦◦ Jordan ◦◦ Russia ◦◦ Turkmenistan ◦◦ Iran ◦◦ Kazakhstan ◦◦ Japan ◦◦ Hong Kong ◦◦ Greece ◦◦ Ukraine

Type: Photo stories ◦◦ Places ◦◦ Documentary ◦◦ Black and White ◦◦ Fine Art Prints ◦◦ Seascapes ◦◦ Urban

The story

The rickety taxi flew frantically on Dhaka's ring road when the view in front of me suddenly appeared; it was Dante's hell. We were entering a vast area full of twenty to thirty chimneys, all belching black smoke amid lakes of toxic water reflecting surreal silhouettes. It felt like a scene from an apocalyptic movie. Some might call it surrealistic. However, the reality was more prosaic – these were brick factories.

Today, more than 7,000 brick factories in Bangladesh produce between 23 and 32 billion bricks annually. This is an enormous industry supporting more than 1 million people, of whom around 33% are children under 15 years. I stopped the taxi next to two young men sitting in chairs just in front of the chimneys and the toxic ponds. They smoked and talked as if they were standing in front of a swan lake with lilies.

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In Bangladesh, bricks have been manufactured for centuries due to abundant suitable clay from nearby rivers and waterways. The method of production has changed little in centuries. The brick blanks are made manually from clay paste pressed into special matrices and then baked in ovens when ready. These kilns continuously emit toxic gases and dust caused by the use of low-quality coal. In addition, brick factories are usually located close to towns, which results in severe pollution.

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I managed to visit several brick factories in Bangladesh. In Chittagong, I found one where I could walk freely around and take pictures as much as I wanted, unlike at the Chittagong Ship-breaking yards. I'm not sure if this would have been possible if the owner had been there. Anyway, that gave me the chance to take close-up photos of the production.

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Almost everything was done manually; bricks and clay were carried in huge baskets on the heads or dragged on specially made wheel-carts by adult workers and boys. Three boys were pushing primitive wheel-carts with wooden platforms attached to them up the riverbank. Another group of men poured the clay into special moulds, forming it into bricks. The third group of workers put the raw bricks into the kilns to bake. A group of boys, some under age 15, watched me with interest as I took pictures. One of them was smoking a cigarette and staring at me with the look of an adult. I took portraits of almost all of them.

My tour in Bangladesh for a small group of 7/8 people
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People are working here because there are no alternatives, and their children need to support their parents. Most workers are probably trapped in a debt loop, turning them into modern slaves.

In the brick factories, low-quality coal and garbage are burned, producing a suffocating black gas mixture that slowly rises, merging with the low clouds - the environmental pollution is of epic proportions.

There are currently 11 national and international official regulations, laws, and other documents, two of which are directly related to this industry. Seven years after my visit there (2013), I am sure that almost nothing or very little has changed in these people's lives, despite the many documents and well wishes.

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When I have a problem, fall into depression, despair, or something like that, I remember the boy's muddy smile behind the wheel cart. This memory always acts as a cure for self-pity.

Photo gallery

Brick factories in Bangladesh

Digital downloads and prints available

Tours and expeditions

My program and itinerary in Bangladesh resulted from my month-long trip around the country. I have selected some of the most exciting places that will reveal to you the authentic beauty of this country. Bangladesh has almost no landmarks or monuments of global or even local scale. However, the whole country is one significant landmark. People travel to Bangladesh for the authenticity that still exists in most parts of the country. My tour in Bangladesh for a small group of 7/8 people

Books

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