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DERA GHAZI KHAN: A village has lost to a lung disease dozens of its residents, who were working on stone and gypsum crushing machines in the area.

The poverty-stricken Gabarwah village in Mauza Makwal of Taunsa Sharif tehsil is located on the eastern side of Indus highway. Male residents worked on the nearby gypsum and stone-crushing units.

Neither the department concerned has adopted safety measures, including provision of masks to the labourers, nor has the unit owner paid any heed to implementing standard operating procedures to ensure a safe environment to the workers.

Over 40 workers have died in 8 years; absence of medical facilities compounds ordeal

Twelve residents of the nearby Bohar village have also died of the lung disease while working on the crushing units.

The negligence at crushing units has caused a fatal lung disease among the residents of Gabarwah village also. Eight years ago, the matter had been highlighted in the media and the government took notice by sending medical teams to the village, but after a few days it was forgotten.

Villagers Nawaz, Saleem and Abid Hussain claimed that over 40 people had died in eight years due to the disease contracted from crushing dust. The dust choked tubes of the lungs and affected the respiratory system. They further maintained that over a hundred residents were suffering from the disease and had no means to treatment. They named 10 people whom they claimed were in critical condition, but due to non-availability of medical facilities were lying helpless at home.

The patients would visit the DHQ hospital for treatment, but doctors prescribed them medicines that did not help them, which was why they continued to suffer. A large number of men dying has also created problems for their families who have plunged into poverty and lived with a sense of insecurity.

The village does not even have proper drinking water sources. A water supply scheme worth Rs3.5 million was non-functional as its contractor fled during the construction of a water storage tank and installation of pipes, as per one villager.

Irrigation water supply had also been suspended for long as distributary 47 from the Chashma Right Bank Canal had choked. The women fetched water from adjacent areas.

The villagers have appealed to the Punjab chief minister, whose constituency the village lies in, to provide medical treatment to the villagers of Gabarwah and Bohar as well as the basic facilities. They said that during his election campaign, Sardar Usman Buzdar had visited the village seeking votes and the villagers had extended their support to the incumbent chief minister.

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2018