High altitude affects poll officials

November 26, 2017 07:37 AM Santosh Pokharel

POKHARA, Nov 26: Security force and other election staffs deployed in mountainous districts for Sunday’s provincial and parliamentary election have been hit by the chilling weather. While many were reported struggling to adapt to high altitude climate, one armed police personal, Kailash Katuwal, was air lifted to Pokhara from Naar village of Manang following worrying signs. 

“It is not easy to adapt to high altitudes. It takes time for acclimatization and the staffs deployed in such areas of course face some adaptation challenges. A police inspector has been airlifted as he was affected by high altitude sickness,” said Hari Prasad Panta, CDO of Manang. “Inspector of Armed Police Force Kailash Katuwal showed worrying signs. He had to be airlifted back to Pokhara for treatment,” he added. 

Naar is one of the remotest villages in the district. It takes two days of walk from the headquarters of the district Chame, to reach there. Inspector Katuwal had reached the village after walking for two days. By the time he reached there, he was affected by high altitude sickness. 

“Regional security committee has taken care of him. He is receiving treatment in Pokhara,” Panta informed. “I fear the dipping temperature might affect other personnel as well,” he added. 

Inspector Katuwal colleagues in Naar shared that he vomited and complained of sickness. When help was called, he had to walk three hours to get on the chopper from where he was stationed. 
Naar village is around 4,200 meter high from the sea level. There are few other settlements in Manang and adjoining districts where small human settlements are located in higher altitudes. It is hard for poll officials to acclimatize there, Panta said. Even though security threat in the election is a serious matter, there is ‘an unquestionable need to deploy security staffs’, remoteness of such areas poses challenge, Panta admitted. 

“There are villages in very remote and high altitude zones. Few people live in such settlements. Number of voter is not much there. However, ensuring security is a must and it gets really challenging to do so when such incidences happen,” he said. Panta stated that falling sick of the security personals might necessitate frequent helicopter service. “There is another village, Fu. I fear staffs, security personals might fall sick there too,” he stated. 

According to CDO Panta, irrespective of the health condition of the election staffs, helicopters will be used to transport ballot boxes after the polls on Sunday. “To bring back the ballot boxes, we will have to use helicopters. Considering the geographical complexities, it is important that ballot boxes are transported through helicopters,” he said. 

There are 5,881 votes in Manang, who will cast vote on Sunday from 28 polling stations. Meanwhile, election officer at Naar, Ram Krishna Tamang stated that he has not been able to step out of house due to cold weather. 

“I realized that just having little number of voters does not make it easy. The climate has to be favorable,” said Tamang over phone. “In the day time, we feel little relieved when there is sun outside. But in the morning and evening, it is very hard to get out of the room,” he added.  
He said that there are many villages in the area where voters have to walk for hours to get to the polling booths. “For instance, for Naar or Fu, it takes around three hours of walk to get to the polling booth,” Tamang said. 

CDO of Mustang, Ram Chandra Tiwari agrees. He reported that security arrangement in Mustang is fine. However, the climate is a huge challenge. “We have done our best to keep the polls secure. However, in the high altitude zones, it’s really difficult,” he said. “So far, we have heard of no serious difficulty. But, we are on alert regarding health of the staffs deployed there,” he added.

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