SHOPIAN: The large-scale burning of tree leaves, branches and trash has resulted in the build-up of massive air pollution in southern Kashmir. It has become hard to breath for even healthy persons and those having chest ailment are the worst victims of this pollution.
Previously, with the conclusion of autamn, orchardists and people in southern Kashmir used to burn fallen leaves and branches of different trees to either make charcoal from them or to neaten their surroundings and orchards. But what now makes the burning of leaves hazardous are the layers of smoke-filled fog that cover the region since the smoke contains carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, which heavily pollute the air and the environment.
Environmental activists opine that the present dispensation and the preceding governments consistently stayed mum about the environment and are now busy in political issues. “Nobody is talking about the environment, even for publicity. The atmosphere here used to be pleasent, but now we see smoke everywhere. It is hard to breathe comfortably, even for healthy people, and the air with the massive smoke it contains gives a tough time to patients of lung and chest diseases,” Abid Saki, an environmental activist.
Experts opine that those who don’t burn leaves for charcoal purposes but for cleanliness should instead use the urine spray provided by the Horticulture Department. “It is a matter of fact that the leaves of horticulture trees contain disease-causing seeds. For the orchardists, it is important to clean the orchards, but we have a better option for that. If they use urine sprays, it can kill fungus like scab, San jos scale and many other diseases. The use of urine sprays will help in decomposing leaves and killing diseases as well as saving the environment from massive pollution,” said another horticulture expert, Javid Ahmad.
Sheeraz Ahmad Bhat, a resident of Pulwama, said that steps must be taken to make people aware about the hazards of burning leaves. People in the region use leaf charcoal during winters in fire pots in order to warm both themselves and food cooked on mud chulhas. “Unfortunately, the government is not taking any steps on the ground to stop this mess. The massive burning of leaves could heavily damage our environment,” Bhat said.
Officials in the Health Department say that they are witnessing a huge rush of people at hospitals complaining of major respiratory problems caused by the polluted air. They say that most of the people are suffering due to the burning of tree leaves.
Elderly people, according to doctors, are the worst victims of smoke. “Particulate matter caused by the burning of leaves enters the lungs and remains there for months or even years. This increases the chances of respiratory infections, reduces lung capacity and triggers asthmatic attacks whichare a common menace throughout the valley,” doctors said.
Mukhtar Ahmad , a medico, said that people exposed to this smoke are very prone to other infections of the respiratory tract, eyes and skin.
Shahid Ahmad Mir, a medical student from Pulwama town, said that if the government and educated people didn’t take steps to eradicate the environmental mess caused by burning leaves and branches of trees, the day is nor far when people will be forced to migrate during winters to other states. “Both the people and the government take it easy, but one can see the condition of the air in South Kashmir areas, there is smoke and fog everywhere and people are not able to breathe,” he said.