What’s “Blowin’ in the Wind”?

It’s been a long and unforgivingly wet summer! Now, our wet roads are drying up. Our swollen rivers are subsiding. Our muddy footpaths are solidifying. Potholes are finally giving us true pictures of how deep they are as the water in them dry up.

And our biggest fear now is the rising level of air pollution.

Winter scares me for it brings more than cold weather; it scatters plenty of dust and pollution in the air. Why do we have so much dust in Thimphu? I think dust is in the air mostly because of so many construction sites. They dump the unrequired mud everywhere. Sands, gravels, and cement are left in the open air. While we may not be able to stop people building houses, don’t you think we need stricter (assuming we have one at the moment) rules on this?

Because we cannot see it with our eyes, we believe we live in a place devoid of pollution. At Babesa, for instance, due to numerous construction projects, our clean verandahs are laden with dust in the evenings.

Another negative impact of construction is on our roads. The roads leading to our places are severely damaged along the construction sites and some constructions prolong for many years. I don’t know whose responsibility it is to mend the damaged roads. Building owners or the Thromde? But from these damaged roads, as windy winter matures, a thick cloud of dust will blow in the Thimphu wind.

You wash your car in the morning and half an hour later, it is loaded with dust. And that makes me think washing our cars is useless. The level of dust that our cars gather speaks volumes of the level of pollution.

My friends, who have visited Singapore in the past, tell me how their shoes remain dust-free and clean, even after walking for hours through the streets. I have never been to that country, but can Thimphu become like Singapore in that aspect?

I understand it will take time and effort to change things, but it has to start somewhere. Yes, Thimphu can become one of the cleanest cities in the world. We can do that. And that journey has to start now. An African proverb says, «The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.»

Planting trees and green grasses in every empty and available space in the city (both on public and private land) is one option to fight the dust.

Let›s all put in our share of efforts in making Thimphu, a pollution-free city.

By Nawang P. Phuntsho

The writer works for an NGO and lives in Thimphu with his wife and four-year-old daughter. He is a blogger and a social worker.

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