DERA GHAZI KHAN: Five labourers at a stone crushing factory died after suffering from lung diseases due to the unavailability of prophylactic measures and 50 others are suffering from severe breathing problems.
In Dera Ghazi Khan’s Gabarwah area in Nuwaj, hundreds of labourers have been employed to crush gypsum at several factories. The factories have not provided labourers with any masks or protective gear and in the past three months over 28 people have died due to lung related diseases.
“Our employers have no care for the consequences of the working conditions as long as the work gets done,” said Amjad Shah, a 16-year-old worker at one of the factories.
The men who died within the past week include Mohammad Rehan, Ghulam Rasul, Gulzaar Ahmed, Gul Fareed and Raheem.
Their families have demanded that the Punjab government take notice of the situation.
Over 50 people are presently suffering from respiratory diseases and are admitted in Nishtar hospital.
According to locals, hundreds have died over the past couple of years. “At least 200 people suffer from breathing problems but we will have to wait for them to get sick enough to be hospitalized before anyone takes any notice,” said Ghulam Shabbir, who says he has been living with a terrible cough for the past seven years.
According to locals, five of the people admitted to the hospital are in critical condition and doctors have said that their lungs are giving out. These include Ghulam Farid, Nawaz Mehdi, Faiz Mohammad, Manzoor Ahmed and Ghulam Haider.Chest specialist Dr Akram Buzdar said that the people suffering from the disease could not be cured as they were in the last stages of lung failure.
“We cannot cure such long-standing lung ailments, these people have been treated like animals,” he said.
“They are working under excruciating conditions where they inhale poisonous fumes day in, day out,” he said, adding that the entire colony suffered from lung diseases. “Most of the deaths that occur in this region occur due to breathing problems and lung failure, one can trace this back directly to the stone-crushing factories,” he said.
“We crush stones for the factory and they crush our lungs and lives,” said Amanatullah Rehan, deceased Mohammad Rehan’s uncle.
In the area there is no basic health unit and at the recent funerals of four of the deceased, locals told reporters that the government needed to provide medical treatment to all the affected labourers. We will protest against the factory owners but we know nothing will happen until the government steps in, they said.
Nishtar hospital administration and DG Khan health department officials have said that labourers at the factory will continue to suffer unless the government or the factories provide them with protective gear and masks.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2010.
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