Pollution in the air
IFP Editorial: With the growing number of stone crushing units in Manipur, farmers in the affected areas could not carry out their agricultural activities like before.
Updated on 4 Dec 2021, 8:26 am
(File Photo: IFP)
The Manipur High Court is dismayed. A bench comprising of Chief Justice PV Sanjay Kumar and Justice Kh Nobin Singh on Wednesday expressed its displeasure at the state especially the Director of Trade, Commerce and Industries who is also the Chief Inspector of Factories and Boilers for its failure to take action against illegal stone crushing units being run without licence at Moidangpok village in Imphal West. Sometime ago, we had flagged the problem of air pollution by stone crushers in some parts of Imphal West and questioned the legality of having such pollution causing units in populated areas if they were ever given permission. Now that the issue has come before the High Court of Manipur we have also expressed our hope that at last justice and better sense will prevail. It may be recalled that, Manipur Pollution Control Board authorities had already cautioned the public about high levels of air pollution in a few areas of the Imphal West district. That and a public complaint from Moidangpok and New Keithelmanbi area regarding stone crushing units woke up the concerned state agencies from its usual slumber leading to a surprise inspection of the said units. Officials from the Directorate of Trade, Commerce and Industry inspected the stone crushing units along with members of the public in April this year.
Upon inspection, the officials found eight stone crushing units set up at Moidangpok and Keithelmanbi areas could not produce relevant documents and also violated the conditions set in the Act. As such, the officials had assured to take legal action against those units. The general complaint of the locals was that unloading of boulders which is considered as raw material for stone crushing units and non-stop crushing process every day, particularly during midnight creates heavy air and noise pollution. The nearby areas remain dusty throughout the day. A private school at Moidangpok is on the verge of closing down following complaints from parents and guardians as one such stone crushing unit had been set up adjacent to it. With the growing number of stone crushing units in the general area, farmers in the affected areas could not carry out their agricultural activities like before. The air pollution has become so unbearable that it is affecting their health and there is a rise in respiratory problems, while the said units also hamper in going to their fields for work due to fencing by the units.
The Manipur government’s Location of Factories Rule, 2013 under the Factories Act 1948 clearly stated guidelines for setting up of stone crushing units. According to it, no stone crushing factory is allowed to install its stone crushing machine and operate within the limit of 300 metres on national highways or state highways, and 100 metres of link roads and other district roads boundaries. It should be located 300 metres away from residential areas, educational institutions, historical places, religious places, zoological parks, wildlife sanctuaries and hospitals. The stone crushing units also violate the Manipur Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act 2014. Most of the stone crushing units are set up in paddy land, by the roadside and some within 300 m of highways and residential areas. A PIL was filed before the High Court of Manipur by six representatives of Moidangpok village in Imphal West, seeking an appropriate direction for closure of the Stone Crushing Units, which are running in and around Moidangpok village allegedly without obtaining necessary factory License, and causing pollution and hardships to the villagers. The High Court of Manipur on Monday issued a notice to the respondents concerned with the returnable date on November 18. However, the state authorities seem to have expressed that it is helpless to take action in the prevailing situation which certainly annoyed the High Court. Why is it helpless? Is it because the illegal stone crushing units are being run by powerful people or those with connections in high places? This is not excusable. No one is above the law. The High Court needs to come down with a heavy hand.