The dust menace in Wangdue

Pollution: With several construction works including the mega hydropower projects underway, Wangdue residents have been facing dust pollution for the last four-five years.

While dust pollution at the hydropower construction sites has lessened, the road widening works on the Thimphu-Trongsa highway has added to the problem.

Every morning thousands of students and hundreds of commuters have to use the highway that passes by Bajo town and Wangdue lower secondary school.

With the weather getting drier, and the windy season just beginning, students and commuters are usually covered in clouds of dust.

Tashi, a resident and parent said even driving has become difficulty because of the dust. The dust pollution is also affecting workers on the road, and at the stone, sand and project construction sites.

Nima Dorji, the principal of Wangdue lower secondary school said the last time the school requested the Department of Roads (DoR) to address the problem, the contractor working on that stretch had sprinkled water near the school’s vicinity but only for two days. “We’re planning to write to the concerned authorities again,” said the principal.

He said that while students do not face serious health issues, all the classrooms and halls are covered in dust. Another problem is that students have to eat their lunches outside the school amidst dust.

Some parents drop and pick up their children from school in their own vehicles and some travel by bus, however, the majority walk to school.

Some school students have started using masks to prevent coughing.

DoR Lobesa chief engineer, GM Rai, said that although there is no mention in the contract agreements, DoR has repetitively instructed the contractors concerned to sprinkle water on the road specially near residential areas and the school vicinity. Each contractor is required to sprinkle water at least twice a day.

“However, the contractors didn’t comply with our instructions,” said GM Rai. “Coming Monday, we are giving them a written notification.”

There are no rules that require contractors to sprinkle water or have in place measures to control dust pollution though, the DoR instructs the contractors to sprinkle water. The chief engineer however said even if the contractors do not comply with the department’s notice, it can’t take action as it was not mentioned in the contract agreement.

Dawa Gyelmo | Wangdue

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