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NH expansion takes toll on health, ecology

Comments Off on NH expansion takes toll on health, ecology   |   December 21, 2013    01:08pm   |Contributed by manoja

Tribune News Service

Jammu, December 19
The expansion of the 400-km Pathankot-Jammu-Srinagar national highway would provide a jerk-free travel to Kashmir, but it has cost heavily upon the local ecology as the crushers and mixers which churn out material for roads generate tonnes of dust daily.

Though the state government had taken action against 688 privately owned stone crushers, no action was taken against some of the big units established by the National Highways Authority of India and AFCONS, which is working on the four-laning of the Jammu-Srinagar national highway.

According to the data collected by the State Pollution Control Board, suspended particulate matter and respiratory suspended particulate matter have witnessed a steep rise in the past two decades, crossing the limits suggested as safe by health experts.

Officials said the dust generated as a result of site clearing and grading, heavy machinery travelling over exposed soils, truck traffic and the production of construction materials at borrow pits and off-site quarries.

Smog and high level of dust in air has now become a major environment and health challenge.

Airborne suspended particulate matter is an important marker of air quality.

The particulate matter includes organic and inorganic matter, nitrogen and sulphur compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heavy metals.

Chairman of the Pollution Control Board (PCB) Arun Tikku said this was a complex issue and the companies had been told to minimise air pollution and damage to the green cover.

“When it comes to big Centrally sponsored projects, there are some guidelines which the construction companies have to follow, which include establishing their units outside the population centres. For these projects, there is always a possibility of some environment issue,” the PCB chairman said.

Construction activities have the potential to generate a substantial amount of air pollution which is detrimental to plant growth and the health of local inhabitants. Environmentalists say that there is a provision of sprinkling water near the construction sites so that dust settles down but the contractors don’t do it just to make money.

“In recent years, suspended particles in air have increased due to the vehicular traffic and the dust generated by the construction activity and big crushers established outside Jammu near the forests. It has become a major cause for respiratory diseases and burning eye symptoms among the labourers and commuters,” said Bushan Parimoo, an environmentalist, who runs a NGO.

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