Paradeep Reeling Under Severe Air Pollution Northward Wind, Discharge From Factories Causing Problems For Residents
Life has become a nightmare for the inhabitants of Paradeep and its surrounding areas for a couple of weeks. With the onset of winter and subsequent blowing of autumnal northward wind filthy pollutants and stench from beverage factories, fertilizer plants and oil mill including coal and iron dusts have snatched off the sleep from the eyes of the denizens of this industrial town.
The damaging impact of the air pollution is so self-evident that any lay outsider can feel chocking affect once he or she enters the Paradeep Port town, which is accompanied by burning sensation in eyes, itching and skin infections of various kinds and repugnant odour from the factories in and around the town.
People live in Bhima Bhoi Colony, Brundaban Colony, JGI Colony, Madhuban, Sandhakuda slum area as well as town outskirts Nuabazar, Badapadia and Atharabanki localities complain of being forced to inhale unhealthy air largely due to the vagaries of the wind.
The locals complain mainly two types of gases ammonia and stench of wheat, the fertilizer plants IFFCO and Paradeep Phosphates Limited [PPL] usually emit ammonia gas during production and factory operation, beverage factory locates at Atharabanki generates filthy stench of wheat as it uses it as raw material. Moreover, Cargil India an edible oil factory locates at Atharbanki too has been spewing thick oil smoke and dust-posing serious pollution and problems for the Tarenigada habitants the problem has doubled with the blowing of recent northward wind.
A Neglected Juanga & Bhuinya Community
VICTIM OF SORRY FATE
Their Livelihood Options Running Out As Time Ticking Away
Subservient in their characteristics, Juanga and Bhuinya, a distinctive community in Keonjhar, Odisha, despite having played a pivotal role in the freedom struggle contributing immensely in the making of modern Keonjhar, are now certainly losing their ground. They look subdued now-a-days, as some people getting advantage of their naivity, have been penetrating into their territory, destroying their source of livelihood, thanks to lackadaisical approach of district administration.
Juanga and Bhuinya community, now a victim of sorry fate, have been living in the area spreading over Banspal, Harichandanpur and Telkoi blocks for six generations. They successfully survived and kept their traditions, culture and their livelihood options intact in the lap of natural environment. They also played a prominent role in the traditional administrative system prior to Independence and this community had also been guaranteed to enjoy the rights over jungle, land, water in places they belong to. They enjoyed the right without paying any taxes as per the decree of the then king of Keonjhar. After Independence when Keonjhar Garh became a part of Odisha, the Juanga and Bhuinya community were allowed to enjoy the rights over forest, water and waterfalls as such treaty was signed by the then king and state government.
During land settlement in 1970, all the hilly districts under the jurisdiction of Juanga and Bhuinya community were not surveyed, as a result these areas remained non-surveyed territories. Now people of this community allege that some mining companies are providing funds to the tune of crores of rupees to Forest Department, which destroyed existing forest expediting the plantation of acacia and eucalyptus plants in the area under “Compensatory Forestry Project”. Certainly hobnobbing of such kind tread on these community’s toe and consequently these people are losing their means of livelihood.
It is an aberration. This bon-homie between mining companies and Forest Department could prove to be disastrous for these people as livelihood sources have been nose-diving fast. Upping the ante over such hectic plantation activities in different villages of Banspal, Harichandanpur and Telkoi blocks, wide-spread resentment has been witnessed in the community. They believe such an arrangement would definitely put a formidable obstruction not only to feed their cattle as leaves of acacia and eucalyptus plants can’t be used as fodder, but also it can create an ecological imbalance in the area.
In a nutshell, the plantation of acacia and eucalyptus has been completed on 1,030 hectres of land spread over 20 villages. Besides this Forest Department is planning to intensify such a programme on 4,588 hectres of land spreading over 32
villages, investing to the tune of over Rs 7 crore.
“If abetment to such plantation programme is not discouraged then this community would lose their agriculture land and their farming activity would be in jeopardy. As a result they would have to live with empty stomach and their source of livelihood would further take a beating,” warned Duskar Barik, secretary of KIRDTI, a Keonjhar-based NGO.
In this backdrop, if such a plantation programme does not put on hold, then non-timber forest products and fodder for domestic animals would be depleting and people of this community would not get a mélange of roots and vegetables (more than 100 types) and mushrooms, which they have been getting in the form of natural and hygienic source of food for ages. It is believed that these NTFP food feeds them around six months a year.
It is learnt that Revenue Department is allying with Forest Department and they have accelerated their non-agricultural activities on the farming land of this community. Except this, some people are taking advantage of innocency of this community and are making inroads in their territories by having set up crusher units illegally on their land. If these units are allowed to flourish, it’s certain that groundwater in the vicinity will not only get polluted and receded fast, but advent of new form of diseases could also be a reality, opined the noted environmentalist.
It’s worth mentioning that non-tribals were prevented from habitating with the Juanga and Bhuinya community during dynasty rule, now-a-days some people are believed to be engaged in snatching their land illegally. Poverty being rampant in their community, they always need money for arranging marriage of their offsprings and curing diseases of their near and dear ones. Some non-tribals are taking the advantage of their adversity and are snatching their agriculture land, in lieu of meager amount.
According to the survey conducted by a non-governmental organisation, at least 264 people across 33 villages lost about 276.46 acres of agriculture land so far and even after knowing this harsh reality, the Keonjhar administration has been turned a blind eye to the plight of these people. These people also face numerous problems like deteriorating health, lack of primary education, infant mortality rate, etc. Maternal mortality rate is considered to be the highest in these areas and presence of teachers in schools are almost nil, still district administration knowing the reality has always turned a blind eye to their problems, allege villagers. No medicine is available in the event of outbreaking of diseases like malaria and diarrhoea, as a result people die owing to non-availability of life-saving drugs in their areas.
In this hour of crisis, some NGOs like KIRDTI have come forward sensitising these people on their issues. They have picked up the gauntlet to hound their opponents who are trying to destabilise their livelihood options. They have urged the district administration to expedite some appropriate and urgent actions so that livelihood options of these people are kept intact.
These innocent people are considered to be caught between the devil and deep sea, while forest in the periphery is shrinking fast, they also face scarcity of food as their livelihood options are being downsized in the event of such unfortunate situation. So it is paramount that the present government must go for a reality check and surmount the present predicament this community is faced with by chalking out schemes for their development.
By Shrikant Panda from Keonjhar
Locals fume that after establishment of two fertilizer plants and other big industries air pollution has been a perennial woe for them, the situation worsens during winter when the northward wind blows from the north carrying dangerous pollutants from the factories further more massive transportation of iron ore and coal to port stock yard through commercial vehicles have generated discharging dust affecting the quality air.
Reports indicate that the existence of this air pollution is being felt during the evening immensely, when the plants start emitting ammonia and other gases, while the obnoxious wheat stench comes from the beverage factory.
People from Paradeep Gada, Udayabata, Nimidihi, Rangia Gada, Nuagada, Chakradharpur, Pipala, and Dochhaki villages allege that they feel chocked by thick-black smoke and dust emission from the near by carbon factory. The coal and iron ore transported to the Paradeep Port is also generating fugitive dust, a layer of ash and several millimetre thick envelops vegetation in the areas.
The blooming tree leaves of winter are looking pale, burnt out and it is no different with paddy plants and betel veins with animals and humans getting diseases with manifold health complaints. There has been no government initiative so far to check the trouble.
Many environmentalists like Sankha Nada Behera apprehend industrial growth may be at the cost of serious environment pollution needless to say a severe health disaster is on offing, when government agencies have become mute spectators.
Official sources inform that they have no complaints of air pollution in Paradeep caused by the northward wind, if the situation reported turns to be true State Pollution Control Board would be asked to interfere and action would be taken against the pollutant generate factories according to the laws available, informs NC Jena, District Collector, Jagatsinghpur district.
By Kahnu Nanda from Jagatsinghpur