AIR POLLUTION: Traffic cops worst-hit

Kathmandu, January 8

At around 2:00pm yesterday, a lady head constable of Traffic Police, who was on duty at Balkhu Chowk, made her way to a nearby hospital to wash her face after standing at one of the busiest and most polluted areas of Kathmandu Metropolis for five hours.

The area was engulfed in thick dust due to the ongoing road extension work. She came out of the hospital after three minutes, wore her mask and returned to her duty.

This is routine work for hundreds of traffic police personnel in Kathmandu Valley, who have been doing their duty without using safety measures against air pollution. There are around 1,400 traffic police personnel working in the valley.

They working under adverse conditions but cannot even complain about it as they are bound by the strict disciplinary codes of the police department.

Kathmandu ranks fifth in the list of most polluted cities, according to Pollution Index, 2017 published by Similarly, according to the website of the Department of Environment of Nepal, the Particulate Matter (PM 2.5) in Ratnapark last evening was 48 µg/m³. The national standard set by the government for PM 2.5 for the 24 hours is 40 µg/m³. While the total suspended particulate matter yesterday was 645 µg/m³.

Sarita Thapa, head constable at Putalisadak, said they had been doing minimum 10 hours’ duty daily amidst the noisy and overcrowded streets and chowks of Kathmandu Valley. “Many of us suffer from respiratory and throat related problems, but we are not even offered regular health check-up by the department,” she added.

“We are not even provided masks to protect ourselves from dust and pollution during duty hours,” said another traffic policeman working at Pulchowk, who refused to reveal his identity.

However, officials at Metropolitan Traffic Police Division said traffic police personnel had to be on duty for maximum eight hours.

Officials also claimed that MTPD was conducting free health camps for traffic police personnel on regular basis. However, they do not have any record of traffic police personnel who received treatment in the free heath camps.

Senior Superintendent of Police and Spokesperson of Nepal Traffic Police Umesh Ranjitkar said, “We are well aware of the fact that our staffers are facing a difficult time during duty hours due to dust and fumes, but there is hardly anything we can do to solve the problems.”