JAMRUD: Growing industrialization trends in Khyber Agency are reported to have led to an alarming surge in the cases of allergy and asthma with more and more people falling to the two diseases.
Sprawling pollution issues because of unplanned industrial growth have put the lives of the residents at risk in Khyber Agency, particularly Jamrud city.
“Industry undoubtedly is essential for economic prosperity and development of the region, however, not at the cost of human lives”, Gulalai says, a resident of Jamrud, adding that industry should not be cross-cutting with the city’s population.
The tribal people, who have been leading their lives without enjoying their fundamental rights because of the outdated Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR), the health sector in Khyber Agency could not develop.
The tribal community of Shah Kaas area in Khyber Agency has shown its serious concerns over depleting environment and dangerously developing health conditions, particularly asthma and allergies among women and children.
There are three factories installed adjacent to their residential area who would emits dirt and poisonous smoke twenty-four-seven. They have been the main source of respiratory tract infections and diseases, including acute asthma and allergies.
Around 200 families dwell in Shah Kaas area, which is situated at the bank of Chaura Khwar. Three main industries are located on the bank, also polluting the waters. Majority families live in temporary houses made up of mud.
Sana Gul, 42, tells the story of her seven children, two of them have asthma and remaining suffering from severe eyes allergies and breathing problems.
“We are already living in hand to mouth conditions, asthma and allergies’ treatment is out of our reach“, Gul says. She adds that her husband is a fruit seller in Hayatabad Peshawar, area connected to Jamrud city.
She maintained that her mud home is not completely covered, roof is limited to four small rooms. Therefore, all the dirt and poisonous chemicals that the factories expel out of their chimneys would keep polluting us all day and night.
“Eight months back, one day when I returned to home, found all my children and other family members unconscious due to the toxic smoke of the factories. I thought they are all dead”, Gul recalls. She says they do not know to consult for resolution of this serious environmental issue, which is gradually killing Jamrud’s population.
“My mother-in-law, who is an elderly lady, has also been suffering from acute asthma conditions”, she tells, adding that doctors have already declared her conditions critical.
Another resident of Shah Kaas, who wished to remain anonymous, says that she has consistently been seeing ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialist in Peshawar ever since this toxic smoke incident happened in our area. “She has not yet recovered completely, and is suffering from severe breathing issues and expectoration”.
Gul Zameera, who also lives in Shah Kaas locality, is worried about her young daughters, yet to be married, but suffering from same conditions. She tells that her elders have complained to political agent of the agency about the factories smoke and poisonous fumes polluting the environment, but in vain.
When Apni Awaz contacted Khyber Agency famous allergist, Dr. Shafeeq Afridi and asked about the environmental pollution causing allergies and asthma in the locals, he says,
“indeed it is a serious matter that seeks urgent attention of the authorities. Women and children are particularly the victims of these factories venom”.
He contends that several patients he has been seeing have developed severe asthma conditions within one year’s time, which can also be life threatening.
“The Outdoor Operation Department (OPD) of his hospital is thronged with asthma and allergies patients, and majority of them are women and children”, Dr. Shafeeq argues.
A few days ago, some of the residents also boycotted the polio eradication campaign who were demanding to remove industry from the residential areas.
Dr. Shafeeq says it was only after intense negotiations with the locals, the political administration took action against the factory owners who are responsible for adding to the miseries of poor residents. He says some of the factories owners were also fined for damaging the environment of the area.
An official of Fata Development Authority Habib Khan says that approximately around 15 marble factories, 4 steel factories and 20 crushing plants have been working in the Shah Kaas.
“FDA had issued Non-Objective-Certificates before installation of these factories on relaxed terms and conditions with an intention of promoting industrial activity in Jamrud Tehsil. However, they were also issued a list of minimum requirements to meet, which relate to environmental protections. They are violating those terms and conditions”, Khan says.
He informed Apni Awaz that considering the environmental hazards and emerging health problems in Khyber Agency, the authorities have devised a comprehensive strategy, and according to which only those factories will be allowed to install in the area, which will ensure safe environmental measures.
Khan says that there are some industries which have assured them to take environment friendly measures. He adds that the political administration frequently pays surprise visits to already installed factories in the area and keeps a strict eye on their production units in order to protect environment and mitigate the perils of industrialization in Khyber Agency.