Saturday December 15, 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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U.S. President Donald Trump’s Take on Climate Change

Trump's backpedaling on the U.S. commitment raises questions about the prospects.

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Pollution, U.S., Trump
The Dave Johnson coal-fired power plant is silhouetted against the morning sun in Glenrock, Wyoming. VOA

“I’m not going to put the country out of business trying to maintain certain standards that probably don’t matter,” President Donald Trump told VOA when asked about the economic impacts of climate change.

When not denying its existence, the Trump administration’s approach to
climate change essentially comes down to three arguments: the United States has already cut its greenhouse gas emissions more than other countries, regardless of any international agreement; regulations to cut emissions come with high costs and few benefits; and those regulations would put the United States at a disadvantage because other countries will not follow.

“When you look at China, and when you look at other countries where they have foul air,” Trump added, “we’re going to be clean, but they’re not, and it costs a lot of money.”

As U.N. climate negotiations get under way in Poland to work out rules for implementing the Paris climate agreement — from which Trump intends to withdraw the United States — experts weigh in on the administration’s claims.

Pollution, Trump
A bus gives off exhaust fumes in Alexandria, Virginia. VOA

Emissions cuts

It’s true that the United States has reduced its greenhouse gas production more than any other country. U.S. emissions peaked in 2005. In the last decade, they have fallen by about 13 percent, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy.

But the United States was the world’s leading producer of greenhouse gases until 2006. And, others have made bigger cuts by percentage. Hungary’s levels, for example, decreased 14 percent.

U.S. emissions started to fall when the fracking boom took off.

The new technique of hydraulic fracturing turned the United States into a major natural gas producer. As the price of natural gas has dropped, it has been steadily replacing coal as the dominant fuel for electricity generation. Because burning natural gas produces far less carbon dioxide than coal, greenhouse gas emissions have decreased.

More recently, renewable sources such as solar and wind power have started to make inroads on the power grid.

Donald Trump, democrats, government,
U.S. President Donald Trump. VOA

While U.S. emissions have fallen since the 2000s, China’s have soared.

The country pursued astonishing economic growth with an enormous investment in coal-fired power plants. China is now the leading producer of greenhouse gases by far, roughly doubling U.S. output.

Cost-benefit

Trump has argued that regulations aimed at limiting greenhouse gas emissions would hobble the U.S. economy. He has moved to undo the Obama administration’s proposed rules on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and efficiency standards for vehicles and appliances, among others.

Critics question whether those regulations would cost as much Trump suggests.

“None of these policies were going to have dramatic increases in the prices that consumers would see,” Duke University public policy professor Billy Pizer said. He added that normal price swings would likely swamp the cost of the regulations Trump targets.

Trump, pollution
Paris depends on countries following through on increasingly ambitious emissions cuts. Pixabay

The emissions reductions the Obama administration pledged in Paris “were built largely on a continuation of the coal-to-gas transition and a continuation of growth in renewable energy that’s already happening,” said Alex Trembath of the Breakthrough Institute research center. As such, he added, they “don’t imply a large cost. In fact, they imply a marginal increased benefit to the U.S.”

Those benefits come, for example, because burning less coal produces less air pollution, which lowers health costs.

Not to mention the direct results of climate change: wildfires, floods, droughts and so on.

“We have enough science and enough economics to show that there are damages resulting from us releasing CO2 into the atmosphere. We know that that is not a free thing,” University of Chicago public policy professor Amir Jina said. “And yet, we are artificially setting it as free because we’re not paying the price of that externality.”

He said economists nearly unanimously support a carbon tax, a cap-and-trade program or some other way to put a price on carbon emissions.

Collective action

Few nations have taken the necessary steps to meet the emissions reduction pledges they made in Paris, according to the most recent United Nations emissions gap report.

Paris Agreement, CLimate, trump
Developed countries are being urged to honour Paris Agreement. Flickr

Even those pledges would fall far short of the Paris goal of limiting global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, the report adds. Reaching that target will take “unprecedented and urgent action.” A 2016 report said an additional $5.2 trillion investment in renewable energy will be necessary worldwide over the next 25 years.

Trump’s statement — “we’re going to be clean, but they’re not, and it costs a lot of money” — sums up why nations are reluctant to act: no one wants to take on burdens that they think others won’t.

“It’s the thing which has been dogging action on climate change for generations,” Jina said.

“We only really solve the problem if everybody acts together,” he added. “And if enough people are not acting, then we don’t.”

Paris depends on countries following through on increasingly ambitious emissions cuts.

Each country decides what it is willing to do. Every five years, countries come together and show their progress.

Climate Change, Trump, disasters
President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. VOA

“You over time build confidence in each other,” Pizer said. “Ideally, you ratchet up the commitments as you see your actions reciprocated by other countries.”

Trump’s backpedaling on the U.S. commitment raises questions about the prospects.

However, the first of these check-ins is five years away. Trump can’t formally withdraw the United States from the agreement until 2020.

Also Read: Paris Adopts Climate Action Plan, Aims to Achieve a ‘Zero-Carbon’ Future

Pizer notes that the predecessor to the Paris Agreement, the Kyoto Protocol, failed in part because it imposed caps on countries’ carbon emissions, and most of the world balked.

“In my mind, this is the best we can do,” he said. “If there were a different way to do it, I’d be all over that.” (VOA)