Mushrooming brick kilns at Vinnamangalam village in Thanjavur district in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu wreaking havoc on the environment, people complain. Located on the northern bank of Vennar, a small river, the village was once fertile, with people cultivating paddy, sugarcane, black gram, green gram and maize.
But now the environment is so polluted people are giving up on agriculture altogether - the villain, mushrooming brick kilns. The six kilns located in the village together produce 2.5 lakh bricks a day - and how do they do that, they scoop out soil from the river bed as also from cultivable lands.
"Fertile, cultivable lands are plundered by the brick kiln owners. Many farmers have no option other than to sell their land and leave the village," lamented an elderly villager.
The kiln depredations are enormous - they use electric motors to suck water from the river and from the ground, trees are cut down, batteries and plastic bakelite wastes are used as fuel to fire the clay bricks and so on.
Villagers, assaulted all the time by the smoke belching out of the area, afflicted with breathing problems and lung diseases. That apart the top soil of cultivable lands and removed by brick kiln owners is perhaps the most precious part of the paddy-growing lands - when the top soil is removed, fertility plummets. Besides the brick kilns have not provided employment to locals. Labourers are brought in from other districts.
The kilns have also dealt a death blow to the traditional brick-making industry, which used to function only during summer, whereas the modern ones operate throughout the year.
"Both our economy and the environment stand to suffer a lot if the kilns continue to operate unchecked and, worse, proliferate," villagers warn and demand immediate intervention by the government.