Children fall ill frequently here as they breathe poison
Sopore: A government primary school in North Kashmir’s Sopore town functions in an environment that is utterly inhospitable for the children studying there. Situated near the river Jhelum, the air here should be fresh and clean, but the heaps of garbage that line the school mean the students must breathe poison, leading to many falling ill on a daily basis.
The Takiyabal Government Primary School runs classes from K.G. Vth standard in which nearly 100 students were enrolled. But due to the garbage that surrounds this school, it now has a roll of 60 as most parents don’t send their children to study at a place where their health is at such risk.
The Sopore municipal department brings large piles of non-biodegradable garbage, including polythene, plastic, chemicals, medical waste and carcasses of stray animals and leaves it here in the open. “Health experts say there is a serious threat of extension of disease in our school, but the local administration is in no mood to take action,” school principle Mohtarma Farhana Rashid told Kashmir Reader.
“We have told people from the municipal department who repeatedly dispose of this waste here that this is not a dumping site, it’s our school, but instead of trying to understand our difficult situation, they start fighting with us. Now the residents of this place have started throwing their waste here too,” Farhana recalled.
“I don’t think we have left any place, where we have not complained about this grave problem, but people in the administration seem unconcerned about addressing this issue. We have visited the Sub-Divisional Magistrate of Sopore many times in the past but to no avail. Now we have stopped doing this because are we to follow this garbage problem or teach our students?
“In winters, we keep our windows closed to restrict the stinking air from entering our classes, but we can’t do that during summers as the children feel suffocated. So ultimately our kids along with their teachers are forced to breathe poison,” Farhana observed.
“The mounds of garbage scattered near our school have invited many stray dogs here, which have proved a threat to the safety of small children. One of our students was bitten once, but what can they do as they belong to impoverished families that constrain them to study in such inhospitable conditions,” one of the teachers of the school told Kashmir Reader.
“Sometimes our little ones fall in the drains which are kept open and get injured, but even after our many requests to the municipal department, they don’t do anything,” another teacher added.
Habibullah Kulu, a cart vendor who lives near the school, told Kashmir Reader that this problem has been here from the beginning. “My family is a prime victim, but when I visited the municipal office of Sopore, they told me they would not stop throwing waste here, you can do whatever you want to but we will not remove it from there. After that, I went to the SDM of Sopore, and he assured me that he would direct the municipality to clear the area, but till this time, nothing has happened.”
When contacted, the executive officer of the Sopore municipal department, G.M. Lone, denied the reports of any waste being disposed of near the primary school. Instead he said it was the garbage of a CRPF camp in the area which had withdrawn from there a few days before. “Now I will direct my sanitation officer to get it cleaned as soon as possible,” he said.
Kashmir Reader also contacted the Additional District officer of Sopore, Khursheed Ahmad Shah, who said that he had taken note of the grave problem and would get it checked immediately.