Reacting to the alarming situation arising out of the degradation of environment in the surrounding areas of cement plants in Himachal Pardesh, people have raised a banner of revolt against setting up of any more of these plants in the state.
After the surfacing of the recent incident of a large scale damage caused to environment during excavation activity of the cement plant of Jai Prakash group in Baga village of Solan district, the protests against cement plants are certainty gaining momentum. It was only recently that the state government had evinced interest in roping in more cement-manufacturing giants for setting up cement plants in Chamba and other places where lime-stone deposits have been discovered in large scale.
Taking off with the Baga village example, Himachal Pardesh Jan Samasya Manch, a voluntary organization, is campaigning hard against allowing any more activity in this sector in the state. In Baga, the muck from the cement plant site that gushed down with the rainwater, wreaked havoc with the natural water bodies and crops rendering a large piece of agricultural land almost infertile.
President of the Manch, G.K. Nag says: ‘‘At other sites of cement plants at Gagal (Bilaspur) and Darlaghat (Solan), the damage to the environment is no less either and it is high time that we wake up to the problem. The vegetation and the people in this area are facing threat from harmful effluents released from such plants.’’
Quarrying for lime has aggravated soil erosion and caused diversion of old passages of soil water leading to drying up of natural water sources and irrigation channels.
‘‘The chain of cement projects on the anvil should be abandoned, as these activities are anti-thesis of the basic concept of the tourism oriented state. In its place other projects like hydel power and other electricity-based projects should be encouraged,’’ says Nag.
However, in light of the government’s interest to cash in on the limestone reserves of the state, for which giants like Lafarge have already started to pitch in, it is to be seen whether the people’s campaign can force the government into rethink on its policy.