Budgam: Brick manufacture in Budgam district is awash with a blatant flouting of statutory requirements as nearly all brick kilns operating in the district are illegal, each one having failed to renew their licences from the district authorities. Budgam has the highest concentration of brick kilns in the Valley, accounting for 230 such units. All are brazenly violating the Jammu and Kashmir Brick Kilns (Regulation) Act, 2010.
Kiln operators say the government needs to streamline the kiln licensing process. They say there is a huge number of kilns operating without any license, which causes licensed operators to feel fed up and choose to not renew their licences.
For example, of the almost 70 brick kilns functioning in Chadoora tehsil, 22 are completely illegal and the rest have not renewed their licences and are hence operating illegally as well.
“We have not given any permission to run such units,” SDM Chadoora Shabeer-ul-Hassan told Kashmir Reader. “They are illegally carrying on this trade and have several times faced the law. We have also arrested dozens for disturbing the law, releasing them after they sign a bond.”
Although there is an order issued by the Budgam deputy commissioner Mohammad Harun Malik, directing closure of unlicensed brick kilns, it has been to no avail. Locals allege that the kilns are hand in glove with district higher-ups. Kashmir Reader is in possession of a copy of the order.
A field visit here reveals how gravely the kilns have affected the area’s flora and fauna and also its human population to a grave extent.
Let us take the example of the Wahabpora Higher Secondary School, surrounded by eight brick kilns within its own periphery. Everything here – walls windows, furniture –is covered in a thick layer of dust; as a local employee said, “Teachers refuse to come here as working in this place causes them several chronic problems.”
Similarly, there a brick kilns hardly 400 meters from the Garind High School and several kilns also surround the Soibug Higher Secondary School, thus affecting the health of the students and teachers as well.
Another complaint is about the kilns’ effect on local farming. “Irrigation drains have been diverted to fill reservoirs, which dries up our agricultural land and affects our other resources too. Like in the heavy rains of 2014: the reservoir overflowed, which lead to the deaths of some 2,000 chickens at the Noor Shah Bagdadi poultry farm at Garind Kalan,” locals told this reporter.
Brick kilns pose a serious threat to the health of people living close to them. They also use dangerous fuel for operating their furnaces. From tyres to polythene to coal, anything can be burned in them. The smoke their chimneys emit contains toxic gasses from such material, which is harmful for babies in particular.
Moreover, the tippers that carry bricks out of these kilns also affect health. “We have literally turned deaf due to the noise of these tippers that keep running through the day,” says a local teacher. “These tippers have so damaged the road that we can’t even breathe because of the fumes of dust,” he says.
Deputy Commissioner Malik, when contacted, said that he would examine the situation at ground level and would take action as necessary.