No fewer than 10 persons, seven of them children, residing on the peripheries of two granite quarry-cum-crusher units at Chembanoly in Naranammoozhy grama panchayat are reportedly undergoing treatment for cancer.
An 11-year-old girl, Nimmie Thomas, died of cancer two months ago.
During a visit to the affected area, this correspondent came across three children, Allen P. Achenkinju (12), Bipin George (9), and Allen James (8) who were undergoing treatment for cancer at the Regional Cancer Centre in Thiruvananthapuram and Lissie James (43), Ulahannan (60), Janaki Thankappan (44), and Maya (25) who too were afflicted with cancer and acute bronchitis reportedly due to over-exposure to quarry dust.
Bronchitis is common among the local residents and there are also cases of silicosis, says Renjini Thomas, panchayat member.
District Collector V.N. Jithendran has directed the District Medical Officer to visit Chembanoly and Vakamukku areas and assess the incidence of lung cancer on the basis of a memorandum received from the People’s Joint Action Council for Naranammoozhy and Vechoochira grama panchayats the other day. The Collector has also directed the Ranni Tahsildar to submit a preliminary inquiry report on the alleged violations taking place in the name of two granite quarry-cum-crusher units in Naranamoozhy panchayat.
The blasting and crushing of rocks at the granite quarries release a lot of silica dust which is hazardous to human health.
Minute quarry dust settles over residential areas, especially foliages, badly affecting the vegetation growth and agriculture. Studies also confirmed that diesel emissions and quarry dust are likely to cause cancer and trigger asthma and various other lung ailments. People, especially quarry workers, over-exposed to silica dust are also at high risk of contracting lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, and tuberculosis, says Kurien Oommen, senior Chest Specialist.
Ironically, neither the Health Department nor the panchayat authorities have taken any initiative to address the problem all these years.