Burning fallen leaves banned in Srinagar, but many persist regardless

Burning fallen leaves banned in Srinagar, but many persist regardless
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Leaf charcoal is sole source of income and winter warmth, say leaf burners

SRINAGAR: Despite the ban on burning fallen leaves and twigs in Srinagar, people in many areas of the city can be seen busy violating the prohibition.
The ban was imposed last November, with the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) asking asked people to stop burning leaves and twigs as it causes severe air pollution during winters. But the authority is yet to take any action this year on the issue, which is the chief cause of air pollution.
According to an environmentalist who spoke to Kashmir Reader, burning leaves releases large amounts of airborne particulate matter, including fine bits of dust, soot, harmful particles and toxic gases, all of which aggravate air pollution.
“Incessant burning of leaves also leads to the formation of smog which affects general visibility. Similarly, increased production of carbon dioxide/carbon monoxide by such burning also contributes to global warming. In order to protect the lives and environment of the general public, it is especially important to avoid such practices henceforth. Carbon monoxide binds with the hemoglobin in our red blood cells and reduces the amount of oxygen in our blood. When exposed to large amounts of smoke, a person can collapse and die in a short span of time,” the environmentalist further said, although preferring not to be named.
He added that patients with asthma, emphysema, lung disease and heart disease are most susceptible to the ill-effects of leaf smoke While on the other hand, those who burn the leaves say it is their source of income. “The burning of Chinar leaves is our source of income during winters, Every year, we burn fallen leaves and twigs in this park and then sell the charcoal in the market; people then use this charcoal in their Kangris (traditional fire pots),” said Gulzar Ahmad, a lea burner.
“We collect these leaves from different parts, even from the university or from Mughal Gardens, and then burn them. The leaves make a sort of charcoal known as Paneh chene when burnt, and we collect around 70 bags of this, which we then take to the market.
“We sell the major portion of it to earn our livelihood and the rest we keep for our own use,” he continued. “We have been doing this business since decades, what can we do without it? This is our one source of warmth during the harsh winters.”
People are largely not aware about the ban on leaf burning imposed by the SMC. “We are doing this from several years and we don’t know about the ban. If they impose one, we will still do it as this is our source of income and we cannot compromise on that,” said another leaf burner, Rayees Ahmad.
Chief Sanitation Officer, SMC, Ghulam Rasool told Kashmir Reader that they have already issued an advisory for implementing a complete ban on the burning of fallen leaves in the city.“Violators are dealt with strictly under the rule of law. From past one month, SMC squads have strictly ensured the blanket ban,” Rasool said.
During the morning and evening hours in many areas, government forces are seen burning fallen leaves. The SMC has already taken cognizance of this, Rasool said. “The biomass waste burning is banned as it is harmful and illegal and needs to be stopped immediately.”
He said the department’s workers have taken these fallen leaves to Achen dumping site, where trash gets segregated into bio- and non-biodegradable waste. After decomposition, the leaves can be used for fertilising various public gardens and parks in Srinagar city, he added.