Cement Pollution Suffocates People Living Near Factories

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SRINAGAR – Despite being famous for producing saffron, almonds and walnuts, many scenic spots of Jammu and Kashmir are losing the charm due to pollution emanating from industrial activities.

Supposedly, in Khrew Township of South Kashmir’s Pulwama district, six cement factories are operating in the area. Locals said that these cement factories have made the lives of local residents’ hell and has also largely impacted flora and fauna.

“We have been suffering since 1979 when the first cement plant was established in Khrew.

Our elders had consented setting up of cement factories in Khrew after they were assured in writing by owners of these cement factories that pollution would be kept under check and they would initiate people welfare measures in the area.

The agreements they signed with our elders were disrespected. Pollution has taken a heavy toll on our health,” said a local Muhammad Ashraf.

Kashmir Cement Project (KCP) established first cement factory here and absorbed dozens of local youths. By now Khrew has six cement manufacturing units, emitting huge quantities of cement dust that pollutes the entire area far and wide.

People said that unabated pollution by the cement factories has snatched their agriculture and water resources. “The pollution turned our saffron land barren,” said another local Asif Mohammad, adding the area is falling close to Dichigam wildlife sanctuary. The cement factories already encroached into the territory of the sanctuary.

“We already have been bearing a lot, some people started migrating from this place due to pollution, we don’t want to see worse,” he said.

Six cement plants include government sponsored JK cements, TCI Max, HK cements, Cemtac, ARCO, ICC cements exist in Khrew. Hundreds of trucks also pass in and out of these plants every day to transport raw material and manufactured cement bags.

As per reports, cement factories emit one lakh kilograms of toxic fumes per day thereby wrapping the neighborhood villages in a toxic grey shroud.

The air pollution is blamed for number of respiratory tract infections. In 2015, nearly, 20,000 people were reportedly diagnosed with several respiratory tract diseases and there are also 10 tuberculosis patients in these twin industrial hubs. These industrial areas have been turned into dust bowl.

“It is astonishing that these plants are preferred over human lives as government is heedless to curb the pollution menace in Khrew, said Mohammad Younis, a local from Androosa Khrew.

“We have been experiencing this unhygienic environment here since last many years. People especially children are the worst sufferers. Majority of the people are dependent on agricultural activities. But our orchards and agricultural fields are damaged. Instead of picking fruits and vegetables we find dusty rotten fruits which cannot be consumed due to high pollution levels here,” he added.

People of the area have observed strike on various occasions to protest government’s silence on the pollution caused by the cement plants operating in the area. The locals had brought the issue into the notice of concerned authorities, even protests were held many times, but nothing was done to resolve their matter.

Adding the people of the area have become victims of respiratory problems caused by breathing dust.

A senior official said that the pollution levels will be completely controlled once all the unit holders use pollution control devices. “We have already asked the factory owners to set up modern pollution control devices,” he said. (KNT)

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