Cement majors including Ultratech and Ambuja have not conducted any health checkups of workers involved in the loading and unloading of cement near a railway station here and facing respiratory and skin issues, the National Green Tribunal was informed. A committee told the NGT that out of the five cement companies -- ACC Cement, Wonder Cement, Mangalam Cement, Ambuja Cement and Ultratech Cement -- four except ACC Cement have not conducted any health checkups of workers.
The tribunal was hearing a plea filed by city resident Anubhav Kumar claiming there was air pollution in and around the areas of Rani Bagh, Shakurbasti, Raja Park, Punjabi Bagh, Srinagar, Madipur near the Shakurbasti railway station on account of unscientific manner of loading and unloading of cement.
The committee comprises member secretary of Central Pollution Control Board Dr Prashant Gargava, IIT-Delhi Professor Dr Mukesh Khare, IIT-Kanpur Professor Dr Mukesh Sharma and member secretary of Delhi Pollution Control Committee.
A report prepared by the committee further said that in the health survey, most residents complained about dust spilling over their houses and floors and health issues related to breathing and skin allergies and itching.
"While few enrolled workers reported respiratory and skin problems, in case of daily wage workers a substantial number reported respiratory and skin problems. Besides health survey, X-Ray of 15 enrolled workers was also conducted to confirm the impact on health," the report said.
X-ray examination of workers revealed that there is adverse health impact due to exposure to cement dust but the cement companies have not implemented any systematic plan of action to educate and protect labourers engaged in the activity of handling cement sacks, it said.
No measures have been taken to monitor workers' health since majority of the them are employed on ad hoc basis, the committee said.
It also told the tribunal that though all companies reported about distribution of masks, only Ambuja Cement submitted documentary evidence in this regard.
"During the site visit conducted on October 23, 2019, none of the labourers involved in loading of cement were found wearing masks or gloves. Out of five companies, only Ambuja Cement reported with systematic plan of action to educate the labour engaged in the activity of cement sacks' handling," the report said.
The committee has recommended that Northern Railway immediately construct a warehouse for handling of cement bags so as to minimise emissions and until then no cement handling shall be permitted.
The tribunal took note of the report and said it needs to be acted upon and necessary steps in terms of the recommendations taken by the Northern Railways as well as by Central Railside Warehouse Company Ltd (CRWC) and the five cement companies, after preparing an appropriate action plan.
"The compliance may be monitored by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC). The action plan may be prepared within one month and got approved by the Committee constituted by this tribunal. The committee will be free to make suitable alterations in the action plan. The CPCB may also access and recover compensation for the damage to the environment and public health for the period prior to the remedial action.
"Such interim measures as may be found necessary may also be taken by the Railways as well as by the CRWC and the cement companies consistent with the ground situation," the NGT said.
The applicant also produced photographs to show that cement is being stocked in an open area without any cover and dust is emanating from it causing serious air pollution in the area.
According to the applicant, this causes severe air pollution and affects the health of the people.
"In spite of the fact that several representations have been made, the railway official are not doing anything in this regard," the plea said.