by: Bilal Bashir Bhat
Despite prohibited by the Government, the hazardous to health & environment, the practice of burning fallen leaves is going on unabated in Kashmir leading to severe air pollution. Though there are burn-free options which can be used for abscised leaves but government has preferred to remain limited to only in issuing banning statements in this regard.
At a time when a lethal smog blanket has covered the most states of India, particularly the capital state New Delhi, the paradise on earth, Kashmir may also lead towards the severe winter air pollution in coming years. The unabated practice of burning of fallen leaves, willow and popular twigs (biomass) causing emission of smoke is hazardous for both health and environment.
The practice is not limited to a particular area but in the length and breadth of Kashmir, even in Schools and Universities. The Mughal Gardens in Srinagar which come under the authority of Department of Tourism, Jammu and Kashmir are not even spared to produce carcinogenic gases causing health concern due to the burning of fallen Chinar leaves.
The ill effects of burning fallen leaves are not limited to health and environment issues but also slightly drawing its effects on Tourism industry as tourists come to visit this beautiful garden especially in this autumn season to see the beauty of autumn fall from these humongous Chinars, but tragedy is that some selfish persons are making mockery out of this fall and are not only “burning the beauty” but ars also polluting the atmosphere as well for their own selfish needs in bright day light. With authorities earlier banning the practice of burning of leaves in this season here people are openly doing the practice and authorities are in deep sleep,” said a student Shahid Syed who also captured video of burning of leaves during his visit at Shalimar garden.
Though, Coordinator Chief Minister’s Grievance Cell Tassduq Mufti recently urged upon all the educational institutions, Srinagar Municipality Committee (SMC), and Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) to immediately put a stop on the practice of burning of abscised leaves and even the Srinagar Municipal Committee invoked section 305 of Jammu and Kashmir Municipal Corporation Act, 2000 to implement the ban on this hazardous practice but on ground it miserably failed to curb the menace.
Besides other ill effects the moisture that is usually trapped within leaves tend to burn slowly and generate large amounts of airborne particulates—fine bits of dust, soot and other solid materials and these particulates can reach deep into lung tissue and cause coughing, wheezing, chest pain, shortness of breath and sometimes long-term respiratory problems. The smoke of the leaves irritates the eyes, nose and throat of small children and adults, particularly the elderly and people with asthma, emphysema, lung or heart diseases.
Carbon monoxide binds with the hemoglobin in our red blood cells, and reduces the amount of oxygen in our blood. When exposed to large amounts of smoke, a person can collapse and die in a short span of time.
Moreover, the incessant burning of leaves also leads to the formation of smog which affects the general visibility. Similarly, the production of carbon dioxide also contributes to Global Warming.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), several leaf and yard waste fires burning simultaneously in a particular locale can cause air pollution rivaling that from factories, motor vehicles, and lawn equipment.
There are many options which could be an alternative of the burning of fallen leaves, like composting leaves is the most eco-friendly option which is an excellent fertilizer and can improve agriculture fields and gardens and can also be used to fill low land areas.
Another option is to shred leaves for use as mulch for your lawn or to help protect garden and landscape plants. Lerner suggests adding no more than a two-to-three-inch layer of leaves around actively growing plants, chopping or shredding the leaves first so they don’t mat down and prevent air from reaching roots. As with leaves used for garden mulch, this will provide many benefits, including weed suppression, moisture conservation and moderation of soil temperature.
There are plenty of things we can do with those fallen leaves instead, for that matter the government especially the Municipality should come on forefront to combat this menace and aware people about the different options which can be used through a concrete campaign.