SRINAGAR — The cement factories in Khrew area of Pulwama district, located under the foothills of Dachigam Wildlife Sanctuary, are extracting mining material while flouting norms and causing havoc to the local environment.
Locals said that the cement plants in Khrew, Khonmoh and Wuyan have been permitted to extract raw material and minerals for their cement production but they flout the norms.
They said that if a factory is permitted to extract raw material on a particular mining hectare, they carry out quarrying illegally on more than the permitted area.
“This illegal quarrying is done in connivance with Mining officials. This illegal extraction has wreaked havoc to the local environment and causes loss to the public exchequer in crores,” Mir Bashir Ahmad, a local resident said.
The illegal quarrying has remained unchecked by the government as local mining officials take bribe in lieu of the violation.
Ten cement producing plants including Cemtac, Max, HK, ARCO, Valley, Itefaq (ICC) in Khrew, Greenland and TCI in Wuyan and Saifco and Khyber in Khonmoh are operating in the whole area. The area falls under the foothills of Dachigam Wildlife Sanctuary and has threatened the wildlife because of the illegal quarrying and pollution emanating from the factories.
Locals in the area said that besides mining raw material beyond the allotted area, rampant pollution and threat to local population is inevitable if the government does not rein in the factories by implementing laws.
Locals said the factories in Khrew area are threatening the production of Kashmiri famed spice, Saffron, produced in nearby Pampore town.
They said that in Pampore, more than 19,000 families are directly dependent on this spice for their livelihoods. But the spice production is declining due to the unprecedented boom of cement plants, which are proving lethal for its production.
Researchers have analysed that 200 hectares of Saffron land were under severe threat from cement factories and the production has declined from 3,000 grams to as low as 1,400 grams per hectare.
Researchers have said that the factories emit one lakh kilograms of toxic fumes per day, thereby wrapping the neighbourhood villages in a toxic grey shroud, which has damaged the vegetation and causing respiratory tract infections among the local population.
As per reports, in 2015, nearly 20,000 people were reportedly diagnosed with several respiratory tract diseases.
“The three areas of Khrew, Wuyan and Khonmoh have been turned into dust bowls,” they said.
Locals said that these factories are running with pollution controlling devices which are inefficient and inadequate to control pollution. “There are no in-situ monitoring devices installed in these factories so that the particulate matter doesn’t get into the atmosphere,” they said.
“The chimneys are spewing untreated air relentlessly and down the line 5 to 10 years these factories wouldn’t survive themselves if they won’t check it out right now,” said.
The locals demanded that the LG administration and concerned departments should intervene immediately to save the whole area from becoming a desert.