EDITORIAL: Dust hazards

Despite knowing about the hazards that dust pollution poses, very little is being done to reduce it

The haphazard and unsystematic construction activities, mainly the demolition of part or whole of roadside buildings, to expand the roads and the digging up to lay various types of pipe for the Melamchi project, have added to the air pollution of the capital which was already high.

The present level of dust pollution has been labeled by many organizations and experts as alarmingly high, which poses serious risks to public health.

Now, the Nepal Medical Association has expressed serious concern, as hospitals are being flooded with a number of problems reflected in such complaints as common cold, bacterial tracheitis, pneumonia, bronchitis, throat allergies, and asthma. Experts have urged the public to take care of themselves by wearing face masks.

All people are affected, and those who live in roadside houses or have their shops there are at an even greater risk, as they are exposed to dust and smoke for hours daily. But wearing face masks can only reduce the risk, because dust particles are borne in the air and we cannot remain completely safe even in our residences.

Therefore, the things that caused such high dust pollution for such a long time should have been done in a better way, to avoid some hazards and minimize others.

Kathmandu is one of the cities with high levels of air pollution, well above the limits set by health experts. Yet the government is not doing enough to ensure that the citizens enjoy their right to live in a pollution-free environment.

Therefore, it is high time that the air pollution in the capital and other urban areas of the country was dealt with seriously. Since brick kilns are a major cause of air pollution it is high time such industries were not permitted in the city. Apart from this, the number of vehicles on the road is rising at an alarming rate, and these are also responsible for harmful emissions that lead to an unhealthy environment.

However, as Nepal is now importing fuel meeting international standards from the Indian Oil Corporation it is expected to provide some relief as such petroleum products are less harmful.

Dust pollution has remained a perennial problem for the valley denizens. Despite knowing about the hazards that this form of pollution poses, very little is being done to reduce it. Dust pollution assumes a severe threat particularly during the dry season.

Therefore, it is essential to carry out construction works with mitigation measures to control dust. Major construction works should be completed prior to the dry season to deal with the ever increasing dust pollution that the valley denizens are suffering from. Another major source of dust pollution has been the debris remaining after the back-filling and compaction works.

As such, this serious concern should be taken up without further dilly-dallying and completing the construction and digging works as soon as possible by carrying them out on a war footing.

It is disheartening the way the concerned stakeholders are conducting themselves when they should take the responsibility for this sorry plight, further exacerbated by the delay in repairing the roads and the haphazard dumping of materials for construction.

Educating voters

Voter education is of vital importance in a country where education is not widespread, many people being barely literate or unable to read and write.

Furthermore, people are taking part in the local elections for the first time in nearly two decades. They are voting also under a new setup, under the federal arrangement and under the realigned municipalities and rural municipalities.

The number of elective posts will not only be greater but voting will be more complicated, with specified numbers of candidates under certain categories to be elected under quota.

Voter education should serve several objectives. First of all, it should be able to minimize the percentage of invalid votes, which would otherwise go to one or the other candidate, independent or party-based.

Secondly, voters should also be educated in analyzing the criteria for selecting the best candidate. In this context, the EC started voter education training on Wednesday, under which 21,000 voters would receive a two-day training and be mobilized in the campaign to make people aware of the importance of voting and the techniques of voting.

Other organizations can also contribute in this campaign. Political parties, though they would campaign for their own candidates, can help educate the people in exercising their vote and in how to cast a valid vote.