“The dust, that emanates from the stone crushers, settles on the dew-laden leaves of trees, blocking their pores and then choking their respiratory system,” PCB sources said. “Because of the heavy dust to which they are exposed to, the forest trees around these stone crushers gradually start decaying and finally die as the deposition of dust layers on their leaves badly affects the process of photosynthesis,” the sources added, saying the stone dust also “poses a grave threat to the health of the people”.
Sources said there were more than 20 stone crushers in Doda, Bhaderwah, Kishtwar and Ramban areas that were running in, or near forests without valid PCB permission. “Their cases were not being forwarded by the PCB district offices to the regional director’s office for final approval,” the sources alleged.
A stone crusher is operational 24x7 in the heart of Bhaderwah forests on Chamba road from last two years at Thannala. It has been set up by MG Contractors Pvt Ltd (MGCPL), engaged in the construction of Bhaderwah-Chamba road. Its manager Raghubir claimed that the company had taken permission from the PCB and forest department.
PCB chairman Lal Chand, however, said he did not know if MGCPL had taken permission from his department or not. He said as per PCB norms, the crusher had to be set up at a distance of at least 1 km from the forests. “If the site is within 1 km from the woods, no permission can be given to anybody to run a stone crusher,” he added. Lal Chand said he would find out how the permission had been granted to MGCPL and other private companies, or individuals in the three hilly districts in violation of the PCB norms.
Asked if a temporary permission could be granted to set up stone crushers for the projects which were time bound, he replied in the affirmative. But that too depended on the condition that there was no objection to it from any quarter, he asserted. “If the crushers are to remain in the vicinity of the forests for a long time, we ask for more plantation in the area,” Lal Chand said.
When queried, if stone dust was dangerous for deodar and kail trees too, which were in abundance in Doda, Ramban and Kishtwar districts, he said no study had been carried out by the department on the subject as yet. Bhaderwah residents, who spoke to UNI, however, said the dust and vibration is definitely affecting deodar and kail trees, besides herbal plants.
Allaka Athkhar Zamindar association president Irshad Ahmed said that the MGCPL company has now planted pre-mixing plant side by the crusher plant. Irshad alleged that there are mass irregularities on the ongoing road construction work of Bhaderwah-Chamba road under the direct supervision of R&B department Bhaderwah. Irshad demanded SVO investigation against the Forest and R&B department.