Budgam Sitting on Environmental Time Bomb?
Syed Ali Safvi (Kashmir Times)
Budgam: Central Kashmir’s Budgam district has also been dubbed as “Buthgam” (village of brick kilns) for its ubiquitous brick kilns that have virtually brought this district on the verge of environmental catastrophe.
In brazen violation of environmental laws and in absence of regulatory guidance, mushrooming growth of brick kilns in the district has been threatening the environment and posing a threat to public health.
According to official sources, at least 17 brick kilns and 27 stone crushers are running in the district without license, making a mockery of the district administration.
As per the official statistics available with Kashmir Times, 10 brick kiln owners have been running their business in Budgam Tehsil without any license for the last several years. These illegal brick kilns include two each at Chandipora, Chitroo Dangarpora, and one each at Ichkoot, Waterwani, Hardu Batapura, Labertal, Putlibagh and Wahabpora.
Similarly, as per the official statistics, seven brick kilns are running illegally in Chadoora tehsil, including three at Rakh Shalina, and one each at Qanoongopora, Beegam, Yari Kalan, and Kathigund.
Pertinently, throwing all environmental norms to the wind, the authorities issued license to 54 brick kilns in a span of three years from 2007 to 2009, which include 31 in Chadoora tehsil, 18 in Beerwah tehsil, and five in Budgam tehsil.
According to official sources, Budgam district has a total of 204 brick kilns. However, unofficial sources place this number between 300 and 350. Significantly, finance minister Abdul Rahim Rather’s home tehsil - Chrar-e Shraief, and recently carved out tehsil of Khag are the only two tehsils in the district which have been spared by brick kiln mafia.
Environmentalists are concerned about the mushroom growth of brick kilns and stone crushers in the district. Worried, they have warned that unless urgent solutions are prescribed and implemented to keep a check on brick kilns, Budgam may be sitting on an environmental “time bomb”.
It is pertinent to mention here that the Budgam district administration had in April this year, identified 44 brick kilns for “violation of relevant laws and rules”. However, the much-talked about drive against the brick kilns came to a sudden halt, reasons best known to the authorities.
The official statistics further reveals that there are 27 stone crushers functioning without license in the district. Of the 27 illegal stone crushers, 16 are at Lasjan, 10 at Rakhshalina, and one at Shalina.
The unchecked, mushroom growth of brick kilns and stone crushers speaks volumes about the callous attitude of the district administration that has miserably failed to put the brakes ecological vandalism.
According to official sources, a section of government officials are working hand in glove with the brick kiln mafia.