Already reeling under air and vehicular pollution caused by sand mines, Saidpur village in Nawanshahr is facing an additional problem of ash being dumped in open areas by Saluja Enterprises Limited (SEL), a textile unit located on the outskirts of the village. According to villagers, black ash coming out of the boilers as residue is being dumped in open areas in violation of norms of the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB). As strong winds are blowing these days, the ash is causing respiratory problems, apart from skin and eye irritation, for the villagers.
Though SEL authorities claim they are dumping the ash only in designated areas and following all norms, The Indian Express saw black ash lying in the open in a vacant plot on the road leading to the Saidpur sand mine and at another site near agriculture fields. Jatinder Singh, a farmer, said, “Already, this village is upset due to sand mining. We are not able to do farming properly on our land as ash blows here and there, even falling on our crops thus affecting yield. There has to be a proper disposal of ash.” Jatinder cultivates 26 acres of land on contract.
Rachpal Singh, another farmer, said, “We are not even able to come out of our houses as the flying ash causes skin and respiratory problems.” Ajit Singh, another resident, said, “We had given a complaint to the nearby police station, but to no avail.”
V K Goyal, chief executive officer of SEL, said, “We are disposing ash only in designated areas. If any farmer asks for it, we throw it in his field. After that, it becomes the farmer’s responsibility to manage it. We are not flouting any norms.” Arun Thaper, executive engineer with PPCB, said, “Ash should not lie in the open. If it is, we will get it checked and ask the farmer and the company to cover it properly so it does not cause problems for other farmers.” Problem in Bathinda as well
Similar problem was seen at Sangat Mandi in Bathinda district as well where villagers complained of ash being dumped by a distillary in open fields, which was causing air pollution. Villagers also staged a protest on Monday.
G S Dhaliwal, superintending engineer with the PPCB, said, “Ash was being dumped into a farmer’s field with his consent. While ploughing, it spread in the air, which indicates he had not been dumped properly in a pit. The farmer in question has assured us he will dispose it within 24 hours.”