Pollution: Although common, health officials in Nganglam are calling on relevant authorities to look into addressing the increasing dust pollution in the town after they received more than 4,000 patients suffering from Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI) this year.

Health officials caution that if no measures are taken to control the dust pollution, the community is at high risk of reporting more ARI cases along with asthma and pneumonia.

The concern was shared to the public during one of the recent meetings with the dungkhag officials, where health assistant PK Chettri said, the ARI case load is an increase of more than 500 from last year.

The most common disease reported this year was common cold, tonsillitis and pneumonia among people from two months –more than 40 years old.

The dungkhag’s town road is in dire need of maintenance and continuous movement of about 200 trucks carrying cement, coal and gypsum, everyday has turned the town into a dusty settlement.

Although no survey was conducted, PK Chhetri said dust pollution is among the many factors responsible for causing ARI.

“If possible, concerned authorities should either repair the road or water the road to settle the dust and monitor trucks carrying load are well covered,” he said.

In October alone, there were 251 patients diagnosed with ARI and 24 with pneumonia.

“The dry season would continue until April so some kind of control measure is important,” he said. “Residents should visit the hospital immediately when caught with cold.”

The dungkhag administration has no environment officer and Pemagatshel’s environment officer Chimmi Wangchuk said they have received no complaint from the people about the dust. But he said it is the responsibility of the agency concerned to maintain the road.

Although it is mandatory for trucks to cover their load with tarpaulin, he said he has never managed to monitor the trucks nor visit the town to check its dust pollution.

“It’s because of lack of human resources. We need an additional official stationed in the dungkhag to monitor everyday,” he said.

He said they would require a technician and an equipment to measure dust pollution, which is not available in the dzongkhag. “But it would not be life threatening unless the dust pollution is coming from a factory,” he said.

Yangchen C Rinzin,  Samdrupjongkhar