Vil­lagers con­tinue to suf­fer from pol­lu­tion in Pasakha

Business Bhutan - - Nation - Kr­ishna Ghal­ley from Phuentshol­ing

Vil­lagers from more than five vil­lages lo­cated nearby the Pasakha in­dus­trial es­tate say they have been af­fected by pol­lu­tion from the in­dus­tries since the in­cep­tion of the in­dus­tries at the in­dus­trial es­tate.

The nox­ious fumes and dusts from the in­dus­tries have be­come a bur­den to their liveli­hood as it has brought nu­mer­ous im­pacts on their lives, ac­cord­ing to the res­i­dents.

The no­table im­pacts of pol­lu­tion are the de­struc­tion of Con­glom­er­ated Gal­va­nized Iron (CGI) sheets, which gets rusted too early and have to be re­placed within a few years.

Fur­ther, vil­lagers say there were im­pacts on their health and drink­ing wa­ter with the in­dus­trial dust set­tling along with wa­ter sources and tanks.

Al­most all the vil­lagers say they had re­placed their CGI sheets for more than twice in a decade, which was done only once be­fore.

They added that agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tiv­ity has also de­clined since the start of the in­dus­tries.

While man­darin has been com­pleted wiped off in these vil­lages, other crops’ yields are also de­clin­ing. And chil­dren of Kothiline, a vil­lage across the Singyechhu, still suf­fer from skin rashes.

“We only get oint­ment from the hos­pi­tal which doesn’t work,” a vil­lager from Kothiline said.

Mean­while, the dusts from in­dus­trial plants have the most im­pact, say vil­lagers. Al­most all the in­dus­tries re­lease fumes in the air, which set­tles along the vil­lages. Vil­lagers say most of the in­dus­tries re­lease fumes at night, caus­ing huge smog over the sky which grad­u­ally set­tles along the vil­lages.

The vil­lagers of Singye­gang have also ap­proached the former Phuentshol­ing Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment. The con­cern was also shared with the gewog of­fi­cials ear­lier.

“But no ac­tion has been taken,” Parsu Ram Sharma from Kothiline said.

Ganesh Rai, an­other vil­lager, said since most of the in­dus­trial plants are pol­lu­tant in­dus­tries, the fumes and dusts have not let the vil­lagers to breathe clean air.

He said that most of these in­dus­tries re­lease gas at night de­spite mon­i­tor­ing by Na­tional En­vi­ron­ment Com­mis­sion’s of­fi­cials.

“We the vil­lagers set­tling nearby the es­tate are the ul­ti­mate loser,” he said. “We are pay­ing for them,” Ganesh Rai added.

Mean­while, the in­dus­trial pol­lu­tion is also said to have dis­cour­aged farm­ers to cul­ti­vate with de­clin­ing yield.

Ganesh Rai, be­ing a former Throm Tshogpa, said he had re­peat­edly raised the con­cern but noth­ing has been done. The dusts get washed away by the rain in sum­mer but re­main for days dur­ing the win­ter. When the fume is re­leased, it set­tles along the house and kitchen uten­sils in which peo­ple cook and clothes too which are left out­side to dry.

The vil­lagers want the un­evenly dis­trib­uted in­dus­trial plants to be re­lo­cated for pub­lic ben­e­fit and con­struct colonies for the em­ploy­ees in­stead. “It would ben­e­fit both the in­dus­tries and the pub­lic around,” Ganesh Rai said.

Sam­phelling Gup Mani Ku­mar Rai said Singye­gang vil­lagers had lodged a com­plaint in Jan­uary 2017 ad­dressed to the MP. Singye­gang vil­lage is lo­cated above the in­dus­trial plants where most of the fumes and dusts get set­tled af­ter their re­lease in the air.

Kothiline didn’t ex­pe­ri­ence much im­pact when few in­dus­tries were lo­cated along the Barsa River. How­ever, when the in­dus­tries started emerg­ing on Singye, they have started ex­pe­ri­enc­ing more im­pacts.

Nanda Kishore Ch­hetri from Kothiline said that solid waste is also an­other prob­lem for the vil­lagers which im­pact the land. “It has be­come a great con­cern for us and our chil­dren’s health,” he said.

So far, ex­cept for em­ploy­ees and a few vil­lagers, no in­dus­try has come for­ward to help the vil­lagers in com­pen­sat­ing for the loss.

How­ever, the As­so­ci­a­tion of Bhutanese In­dus­tries (ABI)’s pres­i­dent, Pema Ten­zin said the in­dus­tries have tried to con­trol pol­lu­tion emis­sion from their re­spec­tive plants af­ter be­ing fully con­cerned about the is­sue.

“Pasakha in­dus­tries have spent mil­lions in in­stalling bag house and gas clean­ing plants. Ev­ery com­pany is try­ing their best to en­sure that the pol­lu­tion level in Pasakha is con­trolled,” he said.

Since the in­dus­tries are lo­cated closely in a con­gested area no con­crete ac­tion can be done, ac­cord­ing to the pres­i­dent. “Ev­ery plant has put in ef­forts on pol­lu­tion con­trol,” he added.

ABI pres­i­dent said the dusts from the road have also con­trib­uted to the pol­lu­tion. Im­proper and rid­den with pot­holes, the road till the es­tate re­mains mostly dusty af­fect­ing in­dus­tries and the com­mu­nity as well.

Ac­cord­ing to the ABI pres­i­dent, the in­dus­tries have been ini­ti­at­ing Cor­po­rate So­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity (CSR) and are will­ing to ini­ti­ate it to the nearby com­mu­ni­ties too if they ap­proach.

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