For the past over two years, the day starts for hundreds of residents of more than a dozen villages of the Dakala block with fly ash deposited all around their households and fields and women spending hours to clear the black coloured small ash particles spread at every visible spot on a daily basis.
The fly ash, emanating from a local paper mill, located in Main village of the district, has proved a bane for the residents of the villages including Khera, Khera Jatan, Saphera, Ramgarh, Kalar Bheni, Ravaas, Jalal Kherr, Main, Sawarajpur, Jhandi and Saphera.
Besides affecting the vegetation growth across the affected villages, the ash has become one of the major health hazards as it is affecting the health of the people also.
Despite repeated representations demanding action against the erring paper mill, the administration and Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) authorities are yet to come out of the slumber to initiate any action in this regard.
A random visit to these villages revealed the plight of the villagers as layers of the black ash particles could be easily spotted on leaves of trees, cauliflowers, green fodder for animals, on the rooftops of the houses, base of trolleys and car roofs.
The villagers said that the problem has been usually severe in the morning hours as mill authorities used to discharge ash on a large scale through big and huge chimneys during late night hours.
The labourers working in the fields and people walking on the roads during the early hours of the morning are the most affected lot as the falloff the ash is quite severe in the morning hours.
The villagers said now problems like difficulty in breathing and irritation in eyes have been observed and have been on the rise in these areas.
"My father has been all of a sudden diagnosed with severe asthma; however, he did not ever smoke.
After examining the cause of the problem, doctors at the government Rajindera hospital have said the inhalation of the black ash could be the reason of the problem," said Balwinder Singh, a resident of Khera village.
Another villager Rani Kaur from village Kalar Bheni said besides affecting adults' health, the school-going children often complained about irritation and continuous watering of eyes due to small ash particles.
Though we had earlier dealt with the issue but have received fresh complaints against the paper mill flouting pollution norms. We will carry out a survey and then initiate action against the mill.
Babu Ram, PPCB's Member Secretary.
Speak out of villagers
We have taken up the matter with the mill owners and PPCB officials but our repeated pleas have fallen on deaf ears. Now we plan to launch a massive protest if authorities concerned fail to take any action.
Harpreet Singh, Sarpanch of Kaler Bheni village.
Besides posing a threat to the health of human beings, the small black particles are also affecting the flowery vegetables like cauliflower, forcing us to sell vegetables at lower rates than the prevailing market rates.
Davinder Singh, panchayat member.
One can't work in the fields and walk on the roads during morning hours as the fall of the ash at that time is quite severe and there is likelihood of ash particles hitting the eyes directly.
Dulari Kaur, resident of village Jhandi.
Most residents of the affected villages have already been facing severe problems in breathing and the possibility of the problem aggravating further can't be ruled out. Who will be responsible for this?
Sharanjit Singh, resident of Kaler Bheni.
My father has been all of a sudden diagnosed with severe asthma, however, he did not ever smoke. Doctors at the government Rajindera hospital have said that the inhalation of the black ash could be the reason.
Balwinder Singh, resident of Khera village.