Residents of the Dara mountain range have demanded the closure of stone crushing plants in the Khanpur area of the Hazara Division. Locals said that the court orders of closure of the crushing plant have been ignored by the owners, who have reopened their plants with the alleged backing of local district officials.
They said that around 300 crushing plants were spewing hazardous pollution and dust in the neighbourhood. Due to the dust, they said, respiratory diseases have begun to spread among locals in the area.
Residents of the Dara neighbourhood have long been resisting the lease of the Dara mountain range and installing crushing plants.
An application has been submitted to the assistant commissioner’s office in Khanpur regarding the leasing of the Dara mountain range and installation of crush plants by the representative delegation from different neighbourhoods of Dara under the leadership of former Nazim Malik Faqir, Muhammad General Counselor Malik Jameel, former candidate General Counselor Malik Azmat Qari, Muhammad Ramzan, Arif Baig and Arif Ghoora.
They said the district administration has taken no action against the crushing plants to date. The affected citizens said they were tired of losing lives and assets, but no officer was willing to take the issue seriously.
“We’ve protested several times but our issue was never resolved and police officers give false consolation and disappear,” they said adding that the installation of more crushing plants was harming their area.
They alleged that crushing plants were being installed with the connivance of the influential mafia. “Even court orders are disobeyed, but neither the district administration nor any officers were aware of anything. We won’t sit idle while the crushing mafia continues to dominate,” they said.
“The district administration has to take action. Our children are becoming more susceptible to respiratory diseases. Due to blasting, houses have collapsed, and several homes’ walls have cracked.
Although the community is suffering, the district administration and other departments are not doing anything. We are protesting again and again. We are using our right to protest but cases have been filed against our women for protesting,” they said.
The Supreme Court has issued clear orders, but no department dares to take action according to that, they said. They alleged that authorisation is being granted to install more crushing plants, which is impacting the population.
They said that even their fertile lands were being turned into barren. “It is important to expose those who are hostile to our land and have harmed us in every way,” they said. The crushing plant mafia has cut mountains after mountains and work is being done day and night, destroying the beauty and greenery of the area, they said, while the Khanpur dam is also in danger. Rainfall causes all of its debris to flow into the dam, which means that the Khanpur dam overflows with water because of the crushing plant mafia working nearby. The affected communities have requested the Hariput deputy commissioner, the district police officer and the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa chief minister and others to take notice of the grave issue.
They said that blasting has mentally agonized them, and the area always remained in the grip of fear. They said that the silence of the authorities was compelling them to stage strong protests almost daily.
Sources said that the crushing plants have reopened after they were shut a few days back. The sources said that several locals have been injured after being struck by stones. They said that the local administration implemented the court orders and shut down the illegal crushing plants.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 9th, 2022.