Residents of the area, once main hub of the city, pin hopes on elections

Jyoti, seventh standard student of Fort Catholic Girls’ School, sits at the pan kiosk whenever she is free to support her mother to eke out a living. The shop has a thick layer of dust.

“Pollution in this area makes life hell for residents. There is no pure air to breathe. We very often suffer from cough, allergies, skin rashes and fevers,” she says pointing at coal dust accumulated at various places in front of the shop.

Her feelings reflect the mood, by and large, of the residents of Old Town, once the main hub of Visakhapatnam. Contacted at random by a team from The Hindu, many belonging to Kota Veedhi, Vada Veedhi, Soldierpet and other areas said they were suffering a lot due to pollution though the impact has come down to some extent.

Mechanisation of some berths, construction of a soccer-stadium-type wall around the dusty cargo handling areas and sprinkling system to prevent flying of coal and iron dust by air are cited as some of the reasons for reduction of pollution to some extent.

“It’s better than the past but it will be good if the port stops pollution for good,” said Joseph, a welder in Bothra Company.

Seething with anger over pollution, some of the sufferers said they would not allow the candidates to canvass in their areas seeking vote for them. “We will support only those who pledge to fight against port pollution,” said B. Raju, contract worker of a bank. “They (port officials) are asking us to vacate and take alternative land from the port. Where will we go? We were born and brought up here,” he said.

Lavanya, 10 standard student from Shining Star Little Garden School, said “our quality of life will improve if steps are taken to stop pollution.”

‘Slow poisoning’

Adilakshmi, a home-maker, said pollution of any kind was nothing but slow-poisoning. Hence, many like Lavanya look for good days ahead by containing pollution completely.

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