Rajesh Rai | Gomtu

Residents of Gomtu town, who face severe dust problem, blame industries and heavy trucks plying through the town.

Although Penden Cement Authority Limited (PCAL) sprinkles water on a daily basis, people claim it just settles the dust on the road. They also claim factory dust spread everywhere.

A resident, Tenzin Namgyel, said dust increased because of cement dust from factories and dust created by heavy vehicles running through the town.

“Heavy vehicles pass through the town these days,” he said, adding that there was a bypass for the trucks to ply through earlier. “The bypass has been blocked because of a PCAL construction.”

Residents say if the road is improved, dust might be controlled.

A building owner, Rinchen Wangmo, said everything looks dusty and gloomy in Gomtu. “Our verandahs would be filled with dust.”

She said she heard PCAL is upgrading its dust control system.

A resident, choosing anonymity, said PCAL releases dust particles mainly when the power goes off suddenly. “The system is such that the dust is released when the power goes off and the people are not able to control.”

Gomtu town secretary, Phurba Wangdi, said dredging works at the Sukhti that has increased the dust level.

He said that while PCAL sprinkles water, they are planning to jointly submit an appeal to Lhaki cement as well to control dust and speeding trucks.

PCAL management said they have deployed a water sprinkler truck on a continuous basis covering the entire town and surrounding areas.

They said dust is generated in the town area from the number of vehicles plying on a daily basis.

PCAL’s Chief Executive Officer, Tenzin, said there are daily commuters and trucks carrying raw materials and finished products from industries in Gomtu. “There are also fugitive emissions from the industries in the locality. PCAL has established environmental, health and safety unit since 2019 that is responsible for the management of emissions from the cement plant.”

He also said that PCAL carried out a total change of dust bags and other process improvements that helped to maintain dust emissions within permissible limits last year. “As and when there are disturbances in the plant operation, the emissions are slightly higher but these are being continuously monitored.”

He claimed that without a dust control system, they are not allowed to operate the cement plant. “We cannot operate without one. We also have to meet National Environment Commission requirements, as officials make regular and ad-hoc inspections.”

The CEO also said that from last year, PCAL has started plant technical and safety audits to further help maintain emission levels. “Plant care and maintenance are also carried out on Saturdays for effective housekeeping and control of dust emissions. Our target is to create a dust-free plant by the year 2021.”