BHALWAL-The sufferings of the Bhalwal citizens have increased with the arrival of sugarcane crushing season as ash particles, emitting from Noon Sugar Mills’ chimney have been wreaking havoc with the their health.

The mills management has failed so far to install filters required by law to prevent the ash particles oozing out of the chimney round the clock. The management is utilising sugarcane husk while the mill is bound to use furnace oil instead of husk.

According to the medical experts, chest ailments, asthmatic and ophthalmology diseases are spreading among local residents thanks to these carbon pollutants causing environmental pollution and pitfalls to the lives of the residents. For elderly people, these ash particles are creating lungs and eyes issues. No effective action has been taken despite submitting numerous applications to the environmental authorities to force the mill management to install appropriate filters to allay this menace, the local people said.

They told The Nation that people condemn the apathetic attitude of the mills management towards the nuisance affecting the health of the people badly. The residents complained that sugarcane husk is prevailing over the entire city and nearby areas. The effluents emitted from the chimney are hazardous for the city and the adjacent areas. If furnace oil is used in the boilers, there will be no such complaint, they said.

The local residents’ repeated requests to different authorities have failed to urge the mills administration to control the ash emission. A woman contacted The Nation office and showed the ash particles floating over the water and flying in the environment of the area. They have to keep pots covered. The people requested the Punjab government to take stern action against the mills owners and also demands action against the perpetrators. The people were of the view that local administration is reluctant to discharge its obligation of taking action against the mill owing to high level pressure upon them. Lawyers’ community also demands environmental protection authorities for immediate action against the authorities concerned to redress the grievances of the inhabitants by installing required filters or prosecuting the mills under the environmental laws.

The Punjab Environmental Act 1997 provides that adverse environmental effect attracts penal actions while the adverse environmental effect includes impairment of, or damage to, human health and safety or to biodiversity or property and pollution etc. The Act defines effluent as any material in solid, liquid or gaseous form or combination thereof being discharged from the industrial activity or any source and includes slurry, suspension or vapour.

It imposes penalties to the person who contravenes or fails to comply with the provisions by contaminating air, land or water by the discharge or emission of effluents or wastes or air pollutants, disagreeable or detrimental to the health and safety of the people of the locality.

When contacted the sugar mills Chief Operating officer Sohail Khokhar, on the phone, informed that he has assumed his office recently and is not in a position to explain the situation. He, however, agreed that the functioning of a filter plant would, definitely, help in overcoming the pollution.

It has been learnt that former resident director Ahmed Ali had started installation a filter plant in the sugar mills but the incumbent RD Naveed Akhtar is reluctant to make the filter plant fully functional to “save cost.”