Trucks and buses rumble through a dusty Balkhu-Kalanki road section in Kathmandu on Wednesday. Photo: Bijaya Rai/Republica
KATHMANDU, June 8: The four million or so denizens of Kathmandu Valley will have to put up with dust pollution for at least the next five years, thanks to the sewerage development projects and the underground installation of power lines that are to be carried out without any coordination between the different government bodies.
People living in the Valley inhaled dust and vehicle emission at levels dangerous to human health during the last five years or so due to road expansion and also the pipeline installation for the Melamchi Drinking Water Project.People were led to believed that they would be free of the dust pollution soon after the completion of the Melamchi project and the expansion of the Ring Road, which are in the final stages. However, preparations by the Department of Water Supply and Sewerage (DWSS) to again dig up the roads again, this time to install sewerage pipes, means the dust bowl days have a new leash of life.
According to officials at DWSS, the public sanitation body plans to take up 10 sewerage pipe projects, including six in Kathmandu, three in Lalitpur and one in Bhaktapur, beginning with the coming fiscal year on July 17.
It is the people who have to suffer the consequences of the lack of coordination between the government bodies, including dust in the air during sunny days and mud in the roads when it rains. The sewerage pipeline projects will begin from the coming fiscal year," said Tika Chaudhari, chief of management section at DWSS. "In the course of these 10 projects, Valley roads will need to be dug up yet again," said Chaudhari.
The projects will begin in the municipalities of Kirtipur, Budhanilkantha, Tokha, Tikathali and Ananta Lingeshwor from the coming fiscal year. It will take five years to complete them.
On top of the sewerage projects, the installation of electricity lines under the ground will compound the problem. Government officials informed that the power line projects will be launched in theValley within a few years.
People have to face the dust plague continuously due to utter lack of coordination among different utilities such as sewerage, drinking water, telecommunications and electricity and the roads departments while working on infrastructure projects, said Prof Dr Sadhana Pradhanang, head of Department of Environment, Tribhuvan University. "Dust pollution should not last for five years. It's utter negligence on the part of government officials. They are aware of this but don't care because vested interests are involved," she added.
According to the Nepal Health Research Council (NHRC), pollutant particles in Valley air are five times more than the standard set by the World Health Organization. Emission pollution is very dangerous in terms of cardiovascular and lung diseases and cancers. "When dust gets mixed with vehicle emission, the problem is further compounded," said Prof Dr Anjani Kumar Jha, chairperson of NHRC. "Dust pollution alone is not so critical but it may cause respiratory problems," he added.
The Constitution of Nepal incorporates the right of people to live in a healthy and fresh environment. However, the government has shown scant concern for this right while carrying out its development activities.
A large number of people in Nepal lose their lives annually due to air pollution , according to a Global Burden of Disease report in 2016. Dr Maheshwor Rupakheti, project leader of the Institute of Advanced Sustainability Studies in Germany, informed that pollution takes a toll of 35,000 Nepali lives every year. "The number of people dying from pollution has increased by 3,000 every year," he claimed. "Worldwide, seven million people lose their lives due to pollution each year."