Wednesday May 23, 2018

Kashmir: Environmental laws violated, brick kilns turn hazardous

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By Shamshad Ali

Srinagar: With most brick kilns in the Kashmir Valley not implementing the measures specified for minimizing pollution levels, the areas where they operate are virtually facing an environmental catastrophe, affected citizens and at least one prominent doctor have said.

Like other areas in the vicinity of these brick kilns, their presence in Budgam, on the outskirts of this Jammu and Kashmir summer capital, too is posing a danger for the biotic environment as the district alone has nearly 230 out of around 300 brick kilns in Kashmir.

“The large amount of dust and smoke coming out from the brick kilns is polluting the environment and badly affecting the health of the people,” said Ali Muhammad, a local resident.

As per the norms laid down by the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB), the chimney should be taller than 115 feet.

Image Source: sangrurhelpline.com
Image Source: sangrurhelpline.com

“This norm ensures that harmful smoke and gases emitted from these kilns are released in the upper atmosphere, so that they do not come in contact with the human population,” an SPCB official told IANS, while admitting that these were not followed.

Why is this so? A local politician gave the answer.

“There is mafia behind the brick kiln owners and some authorities are working hand in glove with them and have turned a blind eye towards these blatant violations,” senior National Conference leader and Budgam MLA Aga Syed Ruhullah Mehdi told IANS.

“Those brick kilns which violate environmental laws should be fined or be banned. During the recent visit of the chief minister, I brought the issue to his notice, said Ruhullah Mehdi.

“Brick kilns pose a serious threat to the health of the people living close to the kilns. The smoke that comes out of the chimneys (many of which are only 60-70 feet high) is mixed with lethal gases,” Mushtaq Ahmad, another local resident, told IANS.

The increasing number of patients with chest related diseases confirms the damage.

Naveed Nazir Shah, assistant professor at the Government Medical College here, told IANS: “Emission of huge quantity of toxins from brick kilns is causing serious health hazards.”

“The brick kilns emit toxic fumes containing suspended particulate matters rich in carbon particles and a high concentration of carbon monoxides and oxides of sulphur (SOx) cause common occupational lung diseases like Mesothelioma, Asthma, Silicosis and can even cause Asbestosis which is incurable and can result in death at an early stage” Shah added.

Talking about the various dimensions of concerns caused by these kilns, Mushtaq added: “Tippers transporting bricks from these kilns throughout the day also affect the health of the people. We have literally turned deaf due to their noise in addition to the deterioration of roads, which have turned into deserts of dust and we can’t even breathe.”

“These toxic fumes also affect crops and plants in the areas adjacent to brick fields,” Shah said.

It’s a different matter that SPCB guidelines mandate a green belt consisting of three rows of evergreen broad leaved trees around the periphery of each brick kiln.

The guidelines also say that the kilns should be situated at least 500 meters from any government-approved water scheme or any other water body. There also should be no orchids and residential houses within a radius of 50 meters.

“The smoke and dust also adversely affects visibility, reduces growth of vegetation and can cause lung cancer and several other ailments after entering into the human body,” the SPCB official added.

It is believed that air pollution affects wild native vegetation and forests more than agricultural crops due to land degradation as a consequence of utilization of best quality top soil in brick making, which leads to erosion. Even the streams nearby get polluted by them.

“Many of our springs like Shah Naag are polluted. The brick kilns are using a large area of land which is most appropriate for Saffron cultivation, thus ruining in the process this priceless gift from nature. The deadly smoke and soot emitted from the kilns have drastically affected the trees and vegetable plantations in the area,” Showkat Hussain, a teacher, told IANS.

(IANS)

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Diesel Exhaust Converted Into Ink by Indian Innovators To Battle Air Pollution

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

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representational image. VOA

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

In a cabin, young engineers pore over drawings and hunch over computers as they explore more applications of the technology that they hope will aid progress in cleaning up the Indian capital’s toxic air – among the world’s dirtiest.

While the millions of cars that ply Delhi’s streets are usually blamed for the city’s deadly air pollution, another big culprit is the massive diesel generators used by industries and buildings to light up homes and offices during outages when power from the grid switches off – a frequent occurrence in summer. Installed in backyards and basements, they stay away from the public eye.

“Although vehicular emissions are the show stoppers, they are the ones which get the media attention, the silent polluters are the diesel generators,” says Arpit Dhupar, one of the three engineers who co-founded the start up.

The idea that this polluting smoke needs attention struck Dhupar three years ago as he sipped a glass of sugarcane juice at a roadside vendor and saw a wall blackened with the fumes of a diesel generator he was using.

It jolted him into joining with two others who co-founded the start-up to find a solution. Dhupar had experienced first hand the deadly impact of this pollution as he developed respiratory problems growing up in Delhi.

An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.
An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.

A new business

As the city’s dirty air becomes a serious health hazard for many citizens, it has turned into both a calling and a business opportunity for entrepreneurs looking at ways to improve air quality.

According to estimates, vehicles contribute 22 percent of the deadly PM 2.5 emissions in Delhi, while the share of diesel generators is about 15 percent. These emissions settle deep into the lungs, causing a host of respiratory problems.

After over two years of research and development, Chakr has begun selling devices to tap the diesel exhaust. They have been installed in 50 places, include public sector and private companies.

The technology involves cooling the exhaust in a “heat exchanger” where the tiny soot particles come together. These are then funneled into another chamber that captures 70 to 90 percent of the particulate matter. The carbon is isolated and converted into ink.

Among their first clients was one of the city’s top law firms, Jyoti Sagar Associates, which is housed in a building in Delhi’s business hub Gurgaon.

Making a contribution to minimizing the carbon footprint is a subject that is close to Sagar’s heart – his 32-year-old daughter has long suffered from the harmful effects of Delhi’s toxic air.

Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.
Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.

“This appealed to us straightaway, the technology is very impactful but is beautifully simple,” says Sagar. Since it could be retrofitted, it did not disrupt the day-to-day activities at the buzzing office. “Let’s be responsible. Let’s at least not leave behind a larger footprint of carbon. And if we can afford to control it, why not, it’s good for all,” he says.

At Chakr Innovation, cups, diaries and paper bags printed with the ink made from the exhaust serve as constant reminders of the amount of carbon emissions that would have escaped into the atmosphere.

There has been a lot of focus on improving Delhi’s air by reducing vehicular pollution and making more stringent norms for manufacturers, but the same has not happened for diesel generators. Although there are efforts to penalize businesses that dirty the atmosphere, this often prompts them to find ways to get around the norms.

Also Read: Exposure to Traffic-Related Pollution Poses Threat of Asthma in Kids

Tushar Mathur who joined the start up after working for ten years in the corporate sector feels converting smoke into ink is a viable solution. “Here is a technology which is completely sustainable, a win-win between businesses and environment,” says Mathur. (VOA)