SRINAGAR, Oct 22: More than six months have passed since Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) made it mandatory for all brick kiln operators of Jammu and Kashmir to get environmental clearance to continue their operations but the reluctance by the administration in Valley to constitute the required committees has rendered brick kilns illegal.
An official at Pollution Control Board (PCB) said in the month of December last year, the National Green Tribunal directed the MoEF to make it mandatory for the brick kilns to get environmental clearance from the local administration and mandated setting up of District Expert Appraisal Committee and District Environmental Impact assessment authority.
“But local administration has failed to constitute the required committees and derailed the whole process of decentralizing,” he said, adding that the District Expert Appraisal Committee (DEAC) was advised to meet at least once in a month but they are yet to convene a single meeting despite the passage of six months. He, however, warned of dire environmental consequences if the Government continued with the same attitude towards the environment.
“The emissions from the kilns are destroying the pristine environment of the Kashmir which is the only asset we possess. The way the Government is dealing with it seems environment is not on the priority of the Government,” he said. There are about 260 brick kilns operating in Valley and people living near them have complained of deterioration of their health as, said the PCB official adding the emissions levels have increased.
The locals of Budgam district said for last one year, the mornings there are very hazy and they find a thin layer of black soot deposited on leaves of vegetables.”Our health is continuously getting deteriorated due to smoke and soot that comes from nearby brick kilns,” Manzoor Ahmad, a local from Soibug area of Budgam, said.
Director Pollution Control Board, Syed Nadeem, said that for last several months they were writing to the District Administration Budgam about the issue but have failed to receive any response. “As per the notifications of the MoEF, District Magistrate is the Chairman of the District Environment Impact Assessment Authority (DEIAA) and its mandate is to accord environmental clearance within 45 days of receipt of recommendations from District Expert Appraisal Committee (DEAC), which shall meet at least once every month,” he said.
He said as per the notifications of the MoEF, District Magistrate is the Chairman of the District Environment Impact Assessment Authority (DEIAA) and its mandate is to accord environmental clearance within 45 days of receipt of recommendations from District Expert Appraisal Committee. “Although the validity of the licenses has expired several months ago, the kiln owners are yet to renew their licenses. Technically they are operating illegally. It was made mandatory so as to check the adverse impact of mining on the environment,” said the PCB.
Deputy Commissioner Budgam, Mohammad Haroon Malik, said that they were deliberately avoiding the meetings and wanted the Government to take a call on the issue. “The problem with commencing a meeting is that you have to consider the cases and later renew the licenses. Renewing the license will allow the kiln operators to continue their operations and that will further deteriorate the environment. As per the notification of Union Ministry, we still have some four-five months and by the end of March- April we will take a call,” he said.