Vox Populi: When kiln chimneys welcomed world Environment Day!
A couple of days ago, world observed yet another calendar event and this time it was the world Environment Day. On such occasions, people, organizations and governments take a pledge to do what they can vis-à-vis the event. So, falling in line, people, organizations as well as governments, this time took pledges in order to work for and devote attention towards resolving issues of environment which is one of the most worrying issues of the day.
However, while all this was being done, the chimneys of different brick kilns in Budgam, as in the rest of the valley, continued to release loads of smoke in air showing no respect for the world or its concerns!
According to official figures, there are more than 300 registered brick kilns in the Valley among which 220 operate in Budgam, 40 in Pulwama, 35 in Anantnag and 14 in Kulgam. There are also numerous unregistered kilns in Kashmir.
Most of the brick kilns violate the guidelines set by the government. They operate from agricultural land and are in close proximity to residential areas. There are no checks and balances and also the absence of basic amenities for labourers continues unabated.
Abid Hussain of Kashmir Images spoke to people from different walks of life about the issue. Here are the excerpts:
Dr Khursheed Ahmad Wani, Lecturer Environment Science
Brick making is a profitable business, but the pollutants released are dangerously damaging the fragile environment. They release tons of greenhouse gases and contribute to the warming of planet earth. Currently, the brick kilns in Kashmir are not well regulated by concerned authorities. They should consider better initiatives and grant subsidies for importing better grades of coal. An open platform should be established to facilitate interaction between different stakeholders to popularize the adoption of green technology for brick manufacturing in the Valley.
Mudasir Jaffer Lone, Teacher
Brick kilns have wrecked havoc in Budgam and their impact is not only limited to environment, instead they have created problems in every sphere of life. Due to the emission of black smoke, the beautiful places of habitations have been turned into uninhabitable area. The worst sufferers are children who are vulnerable to air pollution.
Wahid Waheed, Research Fellow
Brick kilns are decreasing the average land held for cultivation, resulting into farmer unemployment. The fertile and cultivable land could have been used for other productive activities like horticulture and floriculture, if proper consultations and financial aid was extended to farmers. Brick kilns also result into a host of environmental problems leading to respiratory diseases in surrounding population.
Muzafar Ali Khan, Doctor
Air pollution is a major concern caused by dust and other poisonous gasses like carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide etc. coming out of brick kilns. Health hazards include skin and lung diseases mainly discoloration and skin pigmentation, COPD, asthma and bronchitis. But long term exposure may lead to chronic ailments like silicosis or even lung cancer. As rightly said prevention is better than cure. There is an urgent need to put blanket ban on opening of new brick kilns and the already existing ones need to be properly regulated.
Ghulam Ahmad Ganaie, Farmer
Brick kilns have damaged the agricultural and horticultural land to a large extent. Kiln owners use fertile soil in large quantity for making bricks which is a grave concern, resulting in reduction in the productivity. Also, brick kilns have led to water scarcity. We can’t get much yield from our land now.
Javaid Ahmad Qazi, Employee and Farmer
Apart from material advantages of brick kilns, there are various hazardous impacts which directly or indirectly plagued our environment in general and health in particular. The near proximity of brick kilns with cultivable land and human habitat led the shrinkage of paddy fields and orchards to great extent. While in human habitat through banks of smoke coming from chimneys fused into air has given birth to a lot of diseases which in turn degrades environment and health as well.
Ghulam Mohammad Malik, Employee
Most of kilns are near to our villages. The smoke emission from chimneys has polluted environment and diseases like asthma are common now. The orchards and agricultural fields are also badly affected. We request concerned authorities to look into the matter and come to our rescue.
Shazia, Lecturer Environment Science
The unregulated and unchecked growth of brick kilns is posing a serious threat to the environment. They have ruined the beautiful landscapes and fresh water springs. These brick manufacturing units have also taken a toll on the health of poor workers associated with it.
Mukhtar Dar, Journalist
The presence of large number of brick kilns in populated areas e.g. in Budgam district are contaminating water and polluting air which is detrimental for health. The brick kiln owners are not following any guidelines and administration is providing licenses without ifs and buts. Alas! Government is just observing everything as a mute spectator.