Rampant use of stone crushers is causing severe noise and air pollution in Lalmonirhat's Burimari land port area under Patgram upazila.
The gruelling noise and cloud of dust in the area are posing health hazards to locals, especially to several thousand workers who carry stones or operate the machines. First-time visitors and port users also find it difficult to cope with the unwarranted extreme conditions in the area.
As a means to keep the dust pollution to a minimum level, the authorities had directed the operators to spray sufficient amount of water onto the stones being crushed and in the areas around the machine. The directive, however, is ignored by most operators.
Redwan Islam, owner of a stone crusher, claimed that they follow the directive, but the workers sometimes fail to comply with their orders.
During a visit to the area, some people were seen using over-the-counter face masks. But many of the labourers, who cannot afford those, were seen covering their faces with gamchha (a traditional towel), knowing that neither the face mask nor the gamchha may not provide them full protection from the excessive dust.
Stone worker Fazlu Miah said since he cannot afford to spend money on face masks, he tries to cover his face with a gamchha while at work. “Of course, I know that this is not going to protect me from this terrible dust,” he added.
Another labourer, Nazrul Islam, said, “It feels suffocating to keep our faces covered all the time. So, oftentimes, we take off the face coverings during work too.”
Nazrul also said that if the machine owners supplied face masks to workers, he would not disagree to use those.
Within around a six-kilometre radius of Burimari land port, at least two thousand stone crushers remain in operation from dawn till dusk. Some of those are even operational round the clock, making it quite impossible to sleep even during night time.
Finding the throbbing of the stone crushers unbearable, Delwar Hossain, a visitor at the land port, said the noise as well as the dust were beyond the level that he could tolerate and hence, he hurriedly finished his work at the port in an hour.
Sahidul Islam, 55, a resident of the area, frustratingly said, “This is not an environment where humans can survive. Still, we have no choice but to live with this terrible noise and air pollution.”
After this correspondent reached Mezbah Ul-Alam, deputy director of Department of Environment in Rangpur, for his comments over the pollution caused by stone crushers around the Burimari land port, he said, “We [routinely] conduct drives against the stone crushers. But [sometimes] we can't continue the drive due to manpower shortage.”