Mithilesh Yadav/Republica A crusher plant established at the base of Chure range by flaunting existing regulations in Karjanaha Municipality, Siraha in this recent picture.
SIRAHA, June 15: Sankatmochan crusher plant at Charnath Municipality – 8 of Dhanusha is situated around half a kilometer west of Rashtriya Primary School. Toddlers to grown-up kids that study at this school are always affected by the sound and dust pollution of this plant.
"Children studying at the school have been coping with the dust and noise pollution for a long time now, and it seems that they have become used to this. There is dust in and outside their classroom," said a local Bhagat Mahato. "Cough and vomiting are also common among the students, but they continue to come," he added.
I think a crusher plant must be established at least two kilometers away from the nearest human settlement only in the case of the Kathmandu valley. I guess such a condition is not applicable here. And, I do not think crusher plants are affecting anyone here. --Sanjeev Duwedi, chief of Cottage and Small Industry, Dhanusha
However, it is not just the school that the crusher plant has affected. Human settlement in the area is very dense, and hundreds of families living in the area complain that crusher plants have made their life a hell.
"When we learned that a crusher plant is going to be established in our vicinity, we protested against it. But the authorities concerned did not pay to our concerns," said Mahato. "Everyone can now see the extent to which the plant is affecting our health, but still the authorities concerned have not taken any steps to close it, and the crusher plant continues to operate unabated."
This, however, is not the only crusher plant operating near human settlement. There are few more such crushers plant in the district that are affecting nearby human settlements.
According to Mahato, the school administration and locals had reached the office of Cottage and Small Industries to request for closing the crusher plant, that they claimed was operating illegally. But the office is yet to respond to their plea. "We handed over a memorandum to the concerned officials detailing our concerns and urging them to take actions against the crusher plant. But so far, our concerns remain unaddressed," said Mahato.
There are specific standards and regulation that must be followed for operating a crusher plant. Concerned departments are supposed to provide permission for establishing crusher plant only if the operator fulfills all the conditions.
This regulation, among others, focuses on the conservation of the environment. As pert its environmental regulations, a crusher plant cannot be operated near human settlements. However, many crusher plants in the district are flaunting this directive by running near human settlements. Residents affected by such crushers allege that such plants are being operated in tacit support from government officials.
"It is apparent that some of the crusher plants have not met the government criteria. There are schools nearby, there are houses, yet the plants are operating," said Mahato. "Who permitted these crusher plants and on what grounds? It seems that government officials have been providing tacit support to such operators."
Sanjeev Duwedi, Chief of Cottage and Small Industry, Dhanusha, accepted that there are some conditions for establishing a crusher plant, but added some requirements are not applicable outside the Kathmandu valley. "I think a crusher plant must be established at least two kilometers away from the nearest human settlement only in the case of the Kathmandu valley. I guess such a condition is not applicable here," he said. "And, I do not think crusher plants are affecting anyone here."
Duwedi further stated that permission had been given to the industries after proper environmental assessment. "The industries running here have passed the environmental assessment. Without such an assessment, how would they get permission?"
Crusher industries cannot operate near heritage sites either. Similarly, they have to be five hundred meters away from highways. Even from the areas of archeological importance, such plants should be two kilometers away. Duwedi claimed that crusher industries in the district have followed these conditions. "I feel that the industries have not been operating illegally, yet we will look into the matter if locals are complaining," he said.
Ram Chandra Mandal, the chairperson of Natural Resource and Environment Committee of Province 2, assured the same. "Action would be taken if illegal activates are going on. We are going to inspect and collect information," he said.
Meanwhile, Mahato lamented that locals and school children in his village are paying the cost of 'insensitivity' of the government and crusher plant owners. "They are still selling assurance that they would look into the matter and find out whether illegal activities are going on. In the meantime, our families are being victimized by the dust and sound coming from the crusher plant," he said.
There are crusher industries around Kamala River, Ghurmi River, Jiba and Bataha River, among others. Some of these industries are operating both near human settlements and highways.
According to Mandal, if any human settlements are found affected by crusher industries, they will be removed from there. "But before taking actions, we have to assess the situation, collect facts and then take action after thoroughly reviewing the assesment," he said.