Smog in Pokhara leads to flight cancellations


By Our Correspondent,Pokhara, Apr. 29:The entire country, including Pokhara, has, of late, been experiencing deteriorating air quality due to pollution and recent forest fires throughout the country. 

Thick smog accumulated in the Kaski region for the past few days has led to increasing pollution in Pokhara. 

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' had to cancel his scheduled visit to Pokhara on Saturday owing to heavy smog which led to the suspension of flights to the Pokhara International Airport. 

On March 17 this year, the Prime Minister declared Pokhara as the country’s tourism capital. 

Out of the scheduled 33 flights departing from Pokhara, only three managed to take off on Friday thanks to poor visibility. Flights from different routes including Kathmandu to Pokhara were affected on Saturday as well due to the thick smog accumulated in the region

The airport authorities attribute the flight disruptions to the reduced visibility caused by the smog. 

The airport announced that the flight had to be cancelled due to poor visibility. Yogendra Kunwar, the chief of Airport Air Traffic Services (ATS), said that air traffic had been irregular for over a week. He confirmed that the rescheduled flight would depart later in the day. However, regular flights to and from Pokhara resumed from 1:00 pm Sunday. 

In Pokhara, the incidence of patients experiencing burning eyes due to pollution is on the rise. On Saturday, the Air Quality Index (AQI) peaked at 288, but it decreased to 172 by Sunday. An AQI below 150 is considered sensitive, while anything above 200 is deemed unhealthy.

Meanwhile, there has been a surge in the number of individuals seeking treatment at the Himalayan Eye Hospital in Pokhara. Seventeen patients have presented with eye-related issues. 

Dr. Indra Man Maharjan, an ophthalmologist at the Himalayan Eye 

Hospital in Pokhara, said that he witnessed a surge in patients with eye allergies and irritation over the past few weeks. 

He expressed concern over the deteriorating air quality and its impact on public health. "Given that it's an eye hospital, it's expected to receive eye patients. 

However, there has been a notable increase in individuals experiencing burning eyes and allergies over the past week," said Maharjan. The increase in air pollution has resulted in a rise in respiratory problems among the residents of Pokhara. Tourists, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Himalayas' shadow from Phewa Lake, are disappointed due to poor visibility. Ravi Kumar, who travelled from India with his family, expressed disappointment over the weather conditions. 

He reminisced about his previous visit three years ago when the skies were clear, contrasting it with the current situation. Even on trekking routes to the Annapurna region with families, the haze from the smog is causing dissatisfaction. 

Dr. Lekhendra Tripathi, an environmentalist, also said haze along the trekking routes to Annapurna region was disappointing. Dr. Tripathi expressed concerns about the worsening environmental conditions and called for urgent government action. As the problems escalated, experts emphasised the need for immediate measures to address air pollution problem. Dr. Subash Adhikari stressed the importance of implementing policies to curb air pollution and raise public awareness. 

Dr. Rabindra Pandey highlighted the health risks associated with prolonged exposure to smog. As the smog persists, residents are advised to stay indoors, wear masks while going out, and seek medical attention if they experience respiratory ailments.

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