By the Editor:
Stones and stone chips are basic raw materials for construction of roads and bridges as well as houses and buildings. Our state has abundant sources of stones which are of various types and qualities chief among which are sandstone, limestone, marble, granite and slate. Rocks are extracted from hillocks or cliffs and the ground in the form of solid blocks or slabs which may be broken or crushed into pieces by manual labour. Blocks and slabs are used for houses and buildings whereas stone chips and pebbles are utilised for roadbeds upon which carpeting is later carried out for smoothness. Stones and granites which are very strong and can withstand high temperature are used in making chimneys and baking of breads and biscuits, etc. Since time immemorial stones had been instrumental for progress and development of human civilisation. But as population increases, need for stones also rises and so people indulge in random exploitation of rocks and stones which is unscientific and hence hazardous to health and environment.
Stripping the top soil which may be of loam, clay, gravel, sand, boulders and loose soil by means of a powerful stream of water at high speed serves the purpose no doubt but is very destructive. In case of strong and solid hillocks, earth-moving machines to strip the earth cause more damage which is irreparable. Stone quarrying is the source of employment for many unskilled and semi-skilled workers but it cannot compensate for the damage to health and environment. Many water sources have been polluted making these unsafe and unfit for drinking and cooking purposes; sand-digging too has adverse consequences. Besides these, another imminent danger is washing and cleaning of motor vehicles at stream sides. Grease, oily dirt and tiny unhealthy particles during washing operation are flushed out and so flow along streams and rivers from which people usually draw water for consumption. During monsoon season when rainfall is quite high natural calamities in the forms of landslips and landslides are common causing flood and damage to lives and crops.
Catchment Areas Act being implemented by State Forest Department as the nodal agency is to be strictly followed and stringent punishment to be imposed on law-breakers. Stone extraction and crushing is a lucrative and thriving industry but it should not be solely profit-oriented. Planning and management are highly essential at the initial stage before more destruction to environment and health hazards to workers are inflicted. Dust from stone quarries and sand-mining is creating not only much inconvenience but is also responsible for various types of diseases. Before issuing licences to operators, authorities should inspect locations and examine sites properly. Besides, supervision and monitoring at frequent intervals are necessary so that if at any stage potential hazards are likely to occur they may be stopped. Machineries too are to be regularly and properly checked and accordingly modified to prevent any probable environment hazards.