Justice at last

J&K government shuts down polluting stone-crushing units

Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

for the 3,000 residents of Athwajan, the closing down of nine stone-crushing units was justice at last. For decades, the residents were forced to breathe air laden with fine particles carried from the crushers set up near their colonies.

Repeated appeals to the authorities to shift these units went unheeded. However, a study conducted by scientists of the J&K State Pollution Control Board ( jkspcb ) in Athawajan area, showed that against the permissible limit of 600 microgrammes per cubic metre (g/cum) within the unit premises, the suspended particulate matter ( spm ) level was 1,000 g/cum.

In the adjacent residential area, the results were more alarming. Against the permissible spm limit of 200 g/cum, the level was above 400 g/cum.

"These units were set up more than 30 years ago and were duly registered with the J&K industries department. We had asked them to install pollution control devices like jacketing over the plant and premises, installation of water sprinkling system and proper vegetation around the units. But they did not follow the guidelines. They tried to put pressure on us, but after we brought the real picture in the notice of Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, orders for their closure were issued", says Shuja Hydri, Regional Director, jkspcb .

Most of these units had come up on the national highway, barely 100 metres from a residential area. The residents of the area spearheaded the campaign against the units which, they say, were affecting the heath of the local populace. According to Muzaffar Ahmad, a shopkeeper, many people had developed respiratory problems following the inhalation of cement dust emitted by these units.

jkspcb estimates put the number of stone-crushing units across Kashmir at 75. "All of them are operating unauthorisedly. No one had installed pollution control devices. Despite repeated requests and even notices issued to install the devices, the unit holders did not pay any attention", says Sarmad Hafiz, legal advisor, jkspcb .

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