Clouds of dust from road construction choke Valley residents

- POST REPORT, Kathmandu
Clouds of dust from road construction choke Valley residents

May 19, 2014-

Forty-seven-year old Chuda Mani Dangal, a local grocery store owner at Koteshwor, recently recovered from persistent coughing and headache that compelled him to stay home for nearly two weeks.

This was the first time Dangal, who has been running the grocery shop adjacent to the recently expanded road section between Koteshwor and Gwarko for around 10 years, had been sick for so long.

“I exercise regularly in the morning to keep fit. But the persistent coughing and headache I was afflicted with was a great deal of surprise to someone as health conscious as me. In fact, this was probably the first time that I had medicine and took complete rest rest for two weeks,” he said, blaming the dust and pollutants from the nearby construction site for the illness that affected him last month.

Since construction began in the area in December last year, people living in residential houses and buildings including owners of shops along both sides of the road in the Koteshwor-Gwarko section complain that they and their family members are regularly falling ill.

They attribute their sickness to the clouds of dust kicked up by the ongoing construction works next to their buildings and shops. Some of them even claim that the dust particles are sometimes 3-4 inches high inside the room and window panes of their buildings.

Hence, throat infections, fever, itchy eyes and mild to severe headaches are some of the commonly reported complaints from the locals.

“In the past few months everyone in my family has fallen sick at least once,” said Dangal. “My son who ran the shop during my absence complained of severe chest pain and when he went to hospital for check-up he was diagnosed with upper-respiratory infection.”

Maya Adhikari, a mother of a five-month old girl, fears for the health of her baby who she attends to while running a tea shop located on the expanded road section.

“I wear pollution mask to protect myself from the harmful dust particles and pollution. However, I don’t know I can do much to protect my baby from such health hazards,” she said.

The situation in Kath-mandu Valley, which is already choking under too much dust and pollutants in the air, is further aggravated by rapid construction works carried out in various parts of the city without considering proper mitigation measures to control dust, smog and other harmful particles generated from the rampant construction works and related activities.

According to a report on Environmental Performance Index released by the Yale University at the beginning of this year, Nepal’s air quality ranks 177th out of 178 countries, better only than Bangladesh. An ongoing study on pollution level being conducted by Anobha Gurung, a doctoral candidate at Yale, found that the level of small particulate matters can measure over 500 grams per cubic metre, which is 20 times the World Health Organisation’s safe upper limit, during serious traffic congestions in the Valley.

Dr Arpana Neupane of Kathmandu Medical College said patients with persistent cough have been visiting her hospital almost on a regular basis. She said patients have also been complaining of dry mouth and itchy eyes.

“Sometimes five among 10 patients show up at the hospital with such symptoms,” said Dr Neupane.

Purna Siddhi Lal Shrestha, former chief at the Geo Environmental and Social Unit at the Department of Roads, the government agency implementing the 27.2 kilometre long Kathmandu Ring Road Improvement Project along with a Chinese contractor, said that the project went ahead without

conducting Environment Impact Assessment and Initial Environmental Examinations, both prerequisites required for assessing the environmental and social aspects and effects before carrying out any large infrastructure projects.

“The three-year project launched in December last year has not incorporated social and environmental concerns i.e, the dust and pollution generated during construction,” he said.  

Though, the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment is responsible to oversee the rising environmental concerns from the ongoing construction works in the Valley and take remedial measures, no efforts have been made in this regard so far.

 

Published: 20-05-2014 10:21

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