Saturday February 24, 2018

Kashmir: Environmental laws violated, brick kilns turn hazardous

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Image Source: sangrurhelpline.com
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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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Bengaluru kids more exposed to toxic air: Report

Observed air quality levels exceeded safety limits by more than five times, the particulate matter count was above 400 micrograms (IG) per cubic metre, says the report

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Observed air quality levels exceeded safety limits by more than five times, the particulate matter count was above 400 micrograms (IG) per cubic metre, says the report.
Observed air quality levels exceeded safety limits by more than five times, the particulate matter count was above 400 micrograms (IG) per cubic metre, says the report. Wikimedia Commons
  • The school-goers are among the worst affected by the toxic air
  • With an existing fleet of seven million vehicles, nearly 900 new vehicles are added to the Bengaluru’s roads every day
  • Observed air quality levels exceeded safety limits by more than five times

If you are travelling in an open vehicle during peak traffic hours daily in Bengaluru, you are likely to be exposed to severe toxic air. And school-goers are among the worst affected, a report warned on Wednesday.

Between 8.30am and 10.30am, the particulate pollution levels between Banashankari to Marathahalli varied from 70-800 micrograms per cubic meter, an alarming high, says the report, “Bengaluru’s Rising Air Quality Crisis: The Need for Sustained Reportage and Action”, by independent environmental researcher Aishwarya Sudhir.

But why is Bengaluru gridlocked?

With an existing fleet of seven million vehicles, nearly 900 new vehicles are added to the Bengaluru’s roads every day.

Worsening the problem, says the report, is illegal dumping of waste mixed with mass untreated sewage.

Also Read: Neurologists say rising air pollution can cause stroke among adults

The city generates around 4,500 to 5,000 tonnes of waste per day, by conservative estimates. The state capital often referred as India’s Silicon Valley because of its information technology hub, has had its challenges with outdated waste collection, segregation and transportation system, which often results in toxic emissions.

Climate Trends works on solutions to air pollution, while Co Media Lab is a community media lab.
Climate Trends works on solutions to air pollution, while Co Media Lab is a community media lab. Wikimedia Commons

The city has 10 online monitoring stations, of which five were introduced in January with an additional feature to generate Air Quality Index.

The five new stations are in Hebbal, Jayanagar, Kavika, National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences and Silk Board.

Taking up the cudgels to check the alarming pollution levels, the report says residents of Whitefield Rising in Mahadevapura in November last year tested the air quality in the morning in their locality.

Observed air quality levels exceeded safety limits by more than five times, the particulate matter count was above 400 micrograms (IG) per cubic metre, says the report.

Also Read: How exposure to air pollution in womb may shorten lifespan

Clean up

Sudhir, who is based in Bengaluru, told IANS that the residents initiated a daily activity to clean up roads by hiring a vacuum cleaner and demonstrated that this is indeed possible.

They have been spending money on and off to get the roads cleaned. They have approached the local municipality and the pollution control board to regularise it. So far that hasn’t happened.

Likewise, residents of Malleshwaram have started taking the initiative to tackle the problem of burning leaves, another major cause of air pollution, in their locality by composting in their gardens or empty plots.

The city generates around 4,500 to 5,000 tonnes of waste per day, by conservative estimates.
The city generates around 4,500 to 5,000 tonnes of waste per day, by conservative estimates. Wikimedia Commons

Quoting Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Research cardiologist Rahul Patil, the report says: “After eliminating stress and dietary habits, we found cab and auto drivers were the worst hit as they remain stranded for long hours in bad traffic and are exposed to high levels of pollution.”

Co Media Lab Director Pinky Chandran told IANS that unlike New Delhi and other cities, Bengaluru, fortunately, has many citizen-action groups that are championing the cause of clean air.

Also Read: Air Pollution And Its Effects On Our Heath

“The state needs to take its citizens into confidence and formulate an implementable action plan which is based on air quality data so that it can bring about change,” she said.

A seven-day air quality monitoring exercise took up by Co Media Lab and Climate Trends this month found that the particulate matter averages observed over four hours during peak time in the morning and evening were consistently above 200 micrograms per cubic metre, indicating very poor air quality levels.

Climate Trends works on solutions to air pollution, while Co Media Lab is a community media lab. Both are based in Bengaluru. (IANS)