Despite being prohibited by the government, and being hazardous to health and environment, the practice of burning fallen leaves is going on unabated in Kashmir leading to severe air pollution.
At a time when a lethal smog blanket has covered the most states of India, particularly the capital, the paradise on earth, Kashmir may also see severe winter air pollution in coming years.
The practice is not limited to a particular area but is spread across Kashmir, even in schools and universities. Even the Mughal Gardens in Srinagar, which come under the authority of Department of Tourism, Jammu and Kashmir are not spared.
Even though, the Coordinator of Chief Minister’s Grievance Cell, Tassduq Mufti recently urged all 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 the Srinagar Municipal Committee invoked Section 305 of Jammu and Kashmir Municipal Corporation Act, 2000 to implement a ban on this hazardous practice, it failed miserable on-ground.
The moisture that is usually trapped within leaves tends to burn slowly and generates 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 from the leaves irritates the eyes, nose and throat of small children, the elderly, and people with asthma, emphysema, lung or heart diseases.
Carbon monoxide binds with the haemoglobin 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 rivalling that from factories, motor vehicles, and lawn equipment.
The ill effects of burning fallen leaves are not limited to health and environment issues but also affects the tourism industry as tourists come to visit this beautiful state, especially in autumn to see the beauty of the humongous Chinars.
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. 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 the forefront to combat this menace and aware people about the different options which can be used through a concrete campaign.
The writer is a Kashmir based Journalist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org