besides pollution, stone crushing plant owners violate labour rights - pakistan
For the last over one month, Khan has been feeling a severe pain in the lungs. The doctor at Pims attributed his disease to the nature of his work. Khan has been working as a stone crusher in the Margalla Hills near Taxila for over 10 years.
Talking to Dawn, the labourer said he could not see any doctor for over a month as his contractor did not allow him to leave the site. He was suffering from the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that makes it hard to breathe. After the medical check-up, the doctor told me that it was due to my job in the dusty environment. The doctor also advised him to take rest for a month.
In reply to a question, Khan said it was very dangerous to plant ammunitions in the hills to blast rocks into pebbles for the construction purposes. Due to the lack of safety measures, most of the time labourers working on stone crushing machines sustain injuries.
Salman Mughal, 22, a resident of Fort Abbas district in Bahawalnagar, added that he had also been working in the Margalla Hills for over a year. He said his uncle, who was also a stone crusher, lost his life in November 2013 when a stone hit him at the workplace. He said neither the owner nor the government paid any compensation to the family of his uncle.
Mughal said the department of mines and minerals and the leaseholders promised insurance for the labourers during the auction of the stone crushing sites but the labourers were never provided any compensation or medical treatment in case of death or injuries.
He said Asim Khan, one of his friends from Upper Dir, died during the blasting of rocks last year.
The government and the contractors dont care about the safety of the labourers while the stone crushers regularly get injuries and also develop eyesight problems. They are never compensated, he complained.
Ziauddin Khan, 23, a resident of Timergarah in Lower Dir, is another stone crusher at the site. He said the labourers worked tirelessly but the leaseholders and the government never provided them safety facilities. This is a dangerous work and people get injured on a daily basis, he said
When the site was auctioned, the leaseholder was asked to write down the facilities for the workers. The list included opening of a dispensary, school and ambulance service. However, none of the facilities was provided to us, he added.
Around 0.1 million labourers are working on the crushing plants in Taxila and its surrounding areas, including Jhang Bahtar, Pathar Garh, Hassanabdal, Ahata, Fatehjang, Sung Trash, Sanjwal and Tarnawa Khanpur.
He said it was stated in the mines act 2006 that the contractor would pay Rs0.2 million compensation to the family of the labourer in case of his death during work. The department of mines and mineral was also to pay Rs0.3 million to the family of the victim.
Khawaja Javed Akhter, who is the chairman of the Margalla Stone Crushers Association, said under the agreement with the department the plant owners were not bound to pay any compensation to the family of a victim.
He also said around 250 crushing plants were operational on the Margalla Hills but the lease agreements of 50 per cent of the contractors had expired. Should we continue working without the renewal of the agreements, he questioned.
Asif Shujja, the director general of Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency, said Islamabads environment would adversely be affected if measures were not taken to control the stone crushing activities.
He said according to the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act 1997, which was adopted by the Punjab government in 2012, the owners of stone-crushing plants had to submit an initial
environment examination or an environment impact assessment to the Punjab EPA before starting a project.
If the project is deemed environmentally safe, EPA issues a no-objection certificate (NOC) to the owners. However, a number of stone crushers continue operating without any permissions or licences, he added.