Baramulla, August 11 : Residents of Uri, clogged with air and noise pollution linked to gypsum extraction in their neighborhood, today demanded immediate action by the government against violators.
Uri is a town in Baramulla which is surrounded by the mountains that are excellent sources for gypsum mining.
In fact, out of the 19 mining leases granted by the department of geology and mining in Kashmir, most, almost 70%, fall in the bowl-shaped region encompassing several villages including Naloosa, Jabadar Bijhama, Zamboor Pattan, Bagna, Dara Gutilian and Dachina Salamaba.
However, the mining processes have environmental repercussions and health hazards for the village residents.
“We are facing a grave problem of air pollution with gypsum dust,” said Aiyaz Farooq, a social activist from Bagna.
“We suffer from chest-related disorders due to the dust emanating while gypsum is extracted and due to subsequent transportation,” said another resident Liyaqat Ali.
“A number of people already have disorders related to dust. We have learnt that T.B cases are on increase in our area,” Aiyaz Farooq told GNS.
At the beginning, the residents said, the pollution was limited to certain areas in the vicinity where extraction processes were carried. “Now you can see dust all over the region which continues to pose threat to the residents,” said Aiyaz Farooq.
“Backbone of our economy is walnut and due to pollution it is completely destroyed,” said another resident.
The locals said that there is jarring increase in the noise pollution caused by heavy machinery used in the extraction processing as well as due to the number of trucks passing through their neighbourhood.
“Very heavy machinery is used for the extraction, creating loud sounds. Heavy trucks used to ferry the gypsum adds to it. Peace in our lives has been taken away,” the residents said. “See the condition of roads.
They are completely dilapidated and worsen everyday as heavy trucks are allowed to ply by officials,” adding, “We had one bridge which connect our village to district and tehsil. This bridge has capacity of load 8-10 tons but these trucks take load of 30-50 tons. The day is not far when this bridge caves in and we will loss the connectivity to outside world.”
The residents say that while extraction processes were hard to be stopped given the fact it generates revenue for the government, “it should not be at our peril.”
“There should be measures which take care of our genuine grievances. The government should repair the road and ensure water is spread on the roads on daily basis so dust does not spread,” they said, adding, “There should be ban on extraction in the areas which are close to habitations and school. In fact, the school falls around 100 meters away from the lease location,” they said, adding, “Measures should be ensured so that forest are not affected. The extraction processes have already taken a heavy toll on them.”
They also demanded that the grazing land should be kept free for livestock so that “only source of income for many families is ensured in the long run.”
Experts say that gypsum mining can lead to destabilizing slopes that can lead to soil erosion. “The water table also gets affected,” the experts say.
“Once the areas are mined, scars are left there, completely disrupting the landscape and it is visible even from a distance.”
The experts say while mining can’t be stopped altogether, “It ought to be regulated in the scientific, technical and legal manner to ensure minimum soil erosion, less health hazards and to preventing the pollution.” (With Inputs From GNS)