We are glad that the Manipur Pollution Control Board (MPCB) has finally woken up to the problem of air pollution caused by stone crusher units and brick kilns in various parts of Manipur. Earlier, it became a routine only for the Board to caution the general public about high levels of air pollution emanating from such units strewn across Imphal West District. Fortunately, the High Court of Manipur is already seized of the problem and have issued adequate directives to concerned officials.
Officially, the licensing authority for giving permission to operate stone crushing units and brick kilns seems to be only the Directorate of Trade, Commerce and Industry while the case of permission from state Pollution Control Board has been forgotten.
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Upon complaint and due inspection by officials of the said directorate in the year 2021, 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.
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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.
The Manipur Pollution Control Board (MPCB) on Tuesday asked brick fields, stone crushers and saw mills, which have been certified under MPCB, to submit certificates along with other documents for monitoring by March 30. MPCB chairman Usham Deben said that there are 48 brick fields, 58 stone crushers in Manipur.
However, there are more brick fields and stone crushers in the state that are opened illegally. In an effort to find out all illegal operations and to monitor whether those certified fields, saw mills and stone crushers are following rules and regulations, the MPCB requested the owners to submit certificates and documents. This is indeed a good step and we sincerely think that there should be a mechanism for assessing the viability and environmental impact as and when such polluting units are in the radar to be followed by a stern monitoring mechanism.