Students, residents forced to inhale coal dust in Mandi Gobindgarh

  • Ketan Gupta, Hindustan Times, Fatehgarh Sahib
  • Updated: Nov 22, 2014 23:24 IST

Being the steel town of Punjab, loading and unloading of coal at Mandi Gobingarh is a common feature.

Coal for local industries and the Rajpura thermal plant is unloaded here from trains and then loaded onto trucks for further transportation. During this process, a large amount of coal dust gets mixed with the air and has become a problem for the residents of nearby areas.

In an attempt to tackle the problem, a resident has filed a complaint against the open loading and unloading of coal in the residential area of Mandi Gobindgarh.

Vimal Kumar Bansal, a chartered accountant by profession and resident of Sham Nagar, filed a complaint to the Central Pollution Control Board and Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) on Saturday, demanding shifting the place of unloading outside the city premises.

After his complaint, PPCB chairman Ravinder Singh sent an inquiry to the Fatehgarh Sahib regional office and after enquiry, Lavneet Dubey, the regional environmental engineer, has recommended sending a notice to the thermal plant owned by a private firm, Larsen and Tuobro.

"It takes nine hours to unload one rack of coal and load it in the truck. On an average, loading and unloading is done at least 40 times a month and there is approximately 2,700 to 3,000 metric tonne coal in one rack," said Surinderjit Singh Khera, chief goods supervisor.

To make matters worse, the place designated by railways for the unloading is adjacent to a residential area.

Children and residents have written letters to various authorities, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, the health minister and PPCB. However, no action has been initiated yet.

Colonies such as Prem Nagar, New Shastri Nagar, Guru Nanak Colony, Shaam Nagar, Baba Balak Nath Nagar, lie in the vicinity of the area designated for unloading and house various primary and middle schools. Respiratory diseases like asthma are common among residents here.

The issue

On March 1, 2013, school children and residents of the area filed a complaint to the senior divisional commercial manager (DCM), northern railways, and asked for the loading and unloading to be shifted outside the city.

On April 8, 2013, the DCM ordered spraying water on the coal dust to prevent it from flying and stopping the use of JCB. However, it seems orders are being followed on paper only.

The issue was then taken to the government and the district administration. The then Fatehgarh Sahib deputy commissioner directed the PPCB to take strict action against violators. On his directive, executive magistrate Kanwarjit Singh Puri inspected the site, checked railway records and submitted his report where it was mentioned that spraying water to settle the dust was not enough.

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