In brazen violation of rules governing environmental protection in Jammu and Kashmir, over 600 stone crusher units in the state are breaching measures mandatory for reducing pollution levels. While these highly air-polluting units have been flouting norms with impunity for many years now, Kashmir’s environmental watchdog, the State Pollution Control Board (PCB), is watching like a mute spectator. Dust rising from the crushers has been causing renal failure, throat ailments and other infections among people living in areas in their vicinity. The dust has also had an adverse impact on cattle and crops.
According to official records, of the 688 registered stone crusher units across the state, 411 operate in the Kashmir region. Pollution control norms are being violated despite stone crushers being a red category industry. As per SPCB rules, there should be three rows of trees encircling the stone crusher to reduce the impact of dust emission. But not a single tree has been planted at most such units anywhere in the state, especially in the Jammu region. It has been reliably learnt that authorities concerned, including those in the education, animal and sheep husbandry, PCB, PHE, agriculture, horticulture, forest and rural development departments, have not issued any No Objections Certificates (NOCs) to these units. In some cases, fake NOCs have been managed as most crusher-owners have strong political connections. They not only run their units illegally but in most cases do not also pay their electricity bills.
Authorities have to ensure that the norms are observed in totality. The stone crushers, as already stated, have caused serious ailments among people living in the vicinity. Human life should be the primary concern of the government. There is no denying the fact that stone crushers are needed, but allowing them to violate norms at the cost of human life cannot be justified by any means. The SPCB’s task is not finished at framing norms: it has to enforce them on the ground. The government must order a probe to ascertain how crushers are operating without mandatory NOCs from quarters concerned.