| Bags of fly ash dumped along the national highway. Telegraph picture |
Shillong, March 15: The sluggishness of the Meghalaya government in taking action against dumping of fly ash bags along National Highways 40 and 44 can have serious repercussions on human health as the Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board has called for an intervention.
Had it not been because of an individual from Jaintia Hills, Sajeki Passah, who works for the protection of environment, the government would still be dead to the world on an issue of public health.
Since Monday, the environment activist had been staging a demonstration near the state secretariat to draw the attention of the government towards the menace.
Passah, who subsequently received support from the Jaintia Students’ Union, All Jaintia Youth Welfare Organisation and the Civil Society Women’s Organisation, finally received an audience with chief secretary W.M.S. Pariat this evening where the government has reportedly assured that a concrete decision would be taken by next week.
According to Passah, the dumping of fly ash along Ri Bhoi, East Khasi Hills and Jaintia Hills became visible from June last year. From then onwards, there was no enforcement to stop truckers from dumping the material used for cement production.
According to the report of the Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board in November last year, dumping of fly ash bags started from Mawlyngad in East Khasi Hills and continued till 7th Mile (after Jowai) in Jaintia Hills.
From Mawlyngad till 7th Mile, there were 10 other areas — including Mawlyndep, Mawsawa, Mawryngkneng, Puriang, Mookyndur, Mookynriang, Khlieh Tyrshi, Myntdu Bridge, Jowai Bypass and Ialong — where truckers dump fly ash bags.
“The fly ash bags were observed to have been dumped at places outside the boundaries of human settlements, mostly at places where drivers park their trucks. All the sites were observed to be far away from any waterbody to have any impact on it,” the report added.
The report pointed out the main impact from the dumping of fly ash bags is on the ambient air.
“When the bags are crushed by vehicles, fly ash becomes airborne. When the airborne fly ash is inhaled, it can cause respiratory tract infections. Trace elements in fly ash are carcinogenic and harmful to human health,” it said.
Moreover, the board recommended that all cement plants operating in Jaintia Hills should immediately take necessary action to ensure that their transporters do not dump fly ash bags on the road side.
Following the report, Section 144 CrPC was promulgated in Jaintia Hills in December prohibiting the dumping of fly ash along the highway. The promulgation, however, proved to be a futile exercise as truckers continued to dump the material.
“Today, fly ash is still being dumped which could affect human health, paddy fields and also the Myntdu river,” Passah said after meeting Pariat.
He demanded that dumped fly ash be removed and a blanket ban imposed on dumping.