Villagers continue to suffer from pollution in Pasakha
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.