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Several Cement factories in Khrew, Khonmoh allegedly operate without proper NOCs
2/21/2020 12:01:32 AM

EARLY TIMES REPORT

JAMMU, Feb 20: Despite Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (Mo&EF) issuing guidelines and circulars from time-to-time to regulate cement factories operating in Khrew and Khonomoh areas, the concerned departments in Jammu and Kashmir are least bothered about the implementation of these guidelines.
Official data accessed through RTIs reveals that most of the cement factories and their mines are operating close to Dachigam national wildlife sanctuary without proper no-objection certificates (NOCs) from the concerned authorities.
Most of these plants in Khonmoh on the outskirts of Srinagar and Khrew in Pulwama district which have been operating for more than a decade are yet to get mandatory NOCs from the Wildlife department. RTI reply under No WLWC/ESTT/18-19/1142-43 provided by Wildlife Warden Central Kashmir reveals that these Cement factories have not even bothered to apply for the mandatory NOC. Some of the other factories have applied for the NOC which have not been granted to them so-far. The reasons for the same have not been provided in the RTI reply.
Not only these plants are operating without mandatory NOCs, but most of them are also running within less than five kilometers distance from the outer boundary of Dachigam Sanctuary.
To regulate the existing cement plants the Mo&EF had issued a notification (No SQ1533 dated 14-09-2006) with subsequent amendments issued from time-to-time.
Under the notification, the existing as well as new cement plants had to undergo various processes to be proposed by expert members of ministry in Delhi before establishment of cement plants and permission for mining activity.
However, while the existing plants are yet to complete the formalities, the Wildlife department is considering clearance of fresh plants and mining activity in the area. “Recently a mine has been granted to one of the cement factories at Kotar Gan, Khrew after illegally clearing the area of forest. The mine is also close to residential area,” sources told Early Times.
Another mine at Rodan Nallah, Khrew is under process. The land in question being full of forest area and other protected plants like mulberry and walnut trees is also in close proximity to Baldav conservation reserve and inside the eco-sensitive zone of protected Dachigam Sanctuary,” they revealed.
A senior Wildlife official on the condition of anonymity said that as there is no baron land which can be utilized for extraction of raw material for the cement production, forest and wildlife land is being vandalized every year in the area.
“Forests are being cleared and patches carved out for obtaining mining leases from the concerned authorities. The practice of favoritism, nepotism and bribery was rampant in the erstwhile state government. But it seems the same old mafia is calling shots in the Civil Secretariat now,” he alleged. The residents of Khrew and Khonmoh have been protesting against this vandalism for years now, but it seems nobody is listening to their pleas. The pollution caused by Cement factories is not only adversely affecting wild life, saffron production but human lives are also at stake.
“The pollution caused by cement factories in the area has made lives of local residents hell and impacted flora and fauna. Above all, the saffron crop is adversely affected by the polluted air,” said Ghulam Hassan Dar, a resident of Khrew said.
The air pollution is blamed for number of respiratory tract infections. In 2015, nearly, 20,000 people were reportedly diagnosed with several respiratory tract diseases and there are also ten tuberculosis patients in these twin industrial hubs.
The residents appealed Lt Governor RC Murmu, Chief Secretary and Commissioner Secretary Industries and Commerce to look into the matter. “We not only appeal the authorities to ensure that existing cement plants adhere to the safety standards, but also the government must ensure that no new permission is granted in the area to establish cement factories,” they demanded.
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