GUWAHATI, March 20 – It is that time of the year when various airborne diseases affect a large section of people in Assam, an occurrence now being witnessed in Guwahati as it gets covered by dust and grime. In all the areas close to major roadways and in settlements lying parallel to the Brahmaputra, the daytime atmosphere is saturated by suspended particulate matters.
It takes only a few minutes to be caked in a layer of dust, and the young and the ailing are among those who are particularly vulnerable.
Doctors have reported a rise in cases of flu, cough and fever, a trend that was also noticeable last year. With no reduction in air-pollution in sight for the last few weeks, doctors have urged people to be cautious while spending time outdoors.
Noted physician Dr Jnanen Sarma, head of the paediatrics department of Gauhati Medical College Hospital said that cases of dysentery, flu and fever have increased. However, incidence of measles has come down in urban areas due to vaccination drives. He mentioned that young children should not be unnecessarily exposed to the elements.
Part of the problem faced by residents of Guwahati emerges from environmental factors like the city’s location close to a river with large sandbanks. Westerly winds carry sand particles into the city’s atmosphere this time of the year. The effect is seen from Kalipur to Uzan Bazar and Kharghuli which are all covered with layers of grime.
Two others reasons for the increase in air pollution are unclean roads and vehicular pollution. Dry soil on the road surface gets mixed in the air due to vehicular movement and chokes the atmosphere. The problem has become particularly acute in areas adjacent to hill slopes where heaps of soil brought down from the hills have accumulated and dried up over time.
A spurt in vehicular pollution is a growing menace for residents of the city, who have to endure toxic fumes in the absence of any checks from the authorities concerned. Old vehicles plying on the roads are responsible for a large percentage of air and noise pollution, but the transport department has taken no initiative to restrict their movement so far.