All the 47 stone crushing units at Haveli taluka of Pune district, responsible for maximum supply of crushed sand and stone dust to Maharashtra and parts of Gujarat are flouting pollution norms, found central and state pollution control boards. “Pollutant levels of some units are 100 times more than the safety standards,” said top pollution board officials.
A stone crushing unit processes stones from quarries to produce different grades of stone and crushed sand (40mm, 20mm, 10mm, crushed sand, stone dust, etc.) using crushing, screening and shaping activities at these sites.
The inspection revealed that four villages located on the north-east end of Pune — Wagholi, Bhavadi, Loni Khand and Perne — in the vicinity of these units, were breathing polluted air, way above the safe limits for suspended particulate matter (SPM), small pollutant particles than can enter our lungs and cause ailments.
In September 2016, the Pune bench of National Green Tribunal (NGT) ordered officers from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) to carry out ambient air quality monitoring in the nearby localities where stone crushing units are situated and to identify possible sources of air pollution while hearing an application filed by Pune-based activist Uttamrao Vithalrao Bhondwe.
“It is found that all the monitored units are not complying with the notified emission standard of 600 microgrammes per cubic metre (µg/m3). The monitored concentration of SPM varies from 770 (minimum) to 56,617 (maximum) µg/m3,” reads the report submitted to the NGT last week. “Most of the units are not maintaining records pertaining material received, production, usage of power, water, green belt development, copy of consent, etc.”
Both pollution boards conducted joint visits to the site in October and recorded air quality levels in November from all 47 units and also measured the ambient air quality from five locations across the four villages. “The residential development of Pune city has reached up to Wagholi with several housing societies and high-rise apartments in the area that are risk to this pollution problem,” said a senior scientist from CPCB. “However, Bahvadi, Loni Khand and Perne areas are scantily populated with scattered habitation and residential areas.”
As against a safe limit of 60 µg/m3 for PM2.5 (pollutant particles that measure less than 2.5 microns), the area around Choryasalis Housing Society, Wagholi recorded 131 µg/m3, Matoshree Market, Near Wagholi Lake recorded 212 µg/m3, Zila Panchayat School, Gram Panchayat, Bhavadi recorded 112 µg/m3, a small habitation in Bhavadi (Panch Number Pati) observed 133 µg/m3 and Ram Nagar, Lonikand near Pune recorded the maximum pollution for PM2.5 at 403 µg/m3.
The CPCB official added that besides stone crushing units, heavy vehicular movement on poor roads with loaded trucks and dumpers from quarries, crushers are other apparent sources of air pollution in these areas.
“Pollution from particulate matter mainly caused by dust leads to irritation and increased aggravation for patients suffering from asthma, bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other chronic respiratory problems. Symptoms of breathlessness is even felt by healthy people because of this pollutant,” said Dr Nilkanth Awad, head of department, pulmonary medicine, Sion hospital.
Similarly, PM10 – larger and coarser pollutant particles measuring 10 microns or lesser – were three times the safe limit at three out of four villages in the area, the inspection also found.
How can the pollution be contained?
The report identified a number of air pollution mitigation measures that were submitted as a part of the report to NGT Pune. Some included:
· Installation of dust separation and collection measures,
· Construction of wind breaking wall,
· Construction of the metaled roads within the premises,
· Regular cleaning and wetting of the ground within the premises and
· Growing of a green belt along the periphery of the units.
(Source: CPCB and MPCB report)
Why should you care?
Last year, Mumbai, Pune and Solapur ranked as three of 16 of the most polluted cities in India by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and particulate pollution was a major reason at all these areas, with dust as the major source. Stone crushing units have prescribed safe limits for dust emission. However, the inspection revealed that none of the plants have been following them and levels were almost 100 times the safe limit.