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PM Oli’s claim that Kathmandu is ‘dust free’ is far from reality

  • City residents say VIPs who move around in air conditioned vehicles are unaware of the Valley’s ground reality
- ANUP OJHA, Kathmandu

May 13, 2019-

In Parliament last week, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli claimed that Kathmandu “now has become a dust-free city” and that no one uses masks these days.

His remarks—which starkly contrasts Kathmandu’s reality—were met with widespread criticism on social media platforms, with people expressing disbelief over the fact that the prime minister did not have the slightest understanding of the city’s pollution levels, and the problems the people are facing because of it.

“Our prime minister commutes only to VVIP areas such as Baluwatar and Singha Durbar, that too in a vehicle,” said Milan Bagale, an architect and rural development planner, who lives in Raniban. “If he would commute like any other citizen, he would realise how tough it is to walk in the streets of Kathmandu, especially along the ring road and some inner parts of the metropolis, even with a mask.”

“He travels in a luxury, air-conditioned vehicle fitted with tinted glasses; how will he see the dust and the people who are forced to inhale it?” said Abinash Parajuli, a local of Tinkune.

Contrary to the prime minister’s remark about the use of masks, the number of people using surgical masks on the streets has surged. “The dust is so intense these days that it even impacts visibility. It’s common people like us who suffer,” said Parajuli, who puts on a mask every time he steps out of his home.

Doctors, however, say such medical, or surgical masks, hardly protect people from inhaling the dangerous particulate matter that lodge deep into lungs, which can lead to long-term health complications. “The masks that people are using may prevent the dust from entering the mouth, but they do not fully protect people,” said Dr Alok Dhungel, a consultant physician at Norvic International Hospital. “The increasing dust pollution in the Valley has increased the risk of lung-related diseases and given rise to the number of patients of respiratory problems like bronchitis, asthma and shortness of breath.”

Tired of the alarming levels of dust pollution in the area, locals on Thursday obstructed 11.46-km Chabahil-Sankhu road section. The road section’s construction has been stalled for years, which has left the area engulfed in dust all year round. Four protesters and a member of police were injured in a scuffle during the protest.

As part of the Kathmandu Metropolitan City’s bid to clean the city roads, the metropolis has been operating five broomer machines.

But most of them are limited to cleaning VIP areas only, like Baluwatar, Maharajgunj, Lazimpat, Durbarmarg and Kantipath. Suffice it to say, it has not done much to

end the plight of Kathmandu’s citizenry.

Published: 13-05-2019 08:41

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