Noise pollution affecting children in Palpa schoolsConstant movement of heavy vehicles carrying limestones through school areas causes distress and anxiety among students, teachers and parents.
On Monday, Sal Bahadur Saru-Magar, a grade eight student in Janapriya Secondary School in Jyamire of Nisdi Rural Municipality-7 in Palpa, was trying his best to concentrate on his lessons. But a long queue of trucks carrying limestones had formed on the road outside his classroom distracting him with loud horns.
Saru-Magar says the commotion outside his classroom is a daily occurrence and it is hard to be able to focus on his lessons. “I haven’t been able to concentrate in the classroom,” he said. “This has affected my performance in school.”
It has been four years since the school authorities have been complaining about the noise pollution caused by heavy traffic outside the school but their voices have gone unheard, says Yama Bahadur Ale, assistant principal of Janapriya Secondary School.
“Hundreds of trucks carrying limestones pass by this road every day. The noise caused by heavy traffic along this road is deafening,” said Ale. “We have repeatedly requested the ward office and the District Administration Office to look into our problems but nothing has been done yet,” he said.
The Palpa-Nawalpur road stretch outside Janpriya Secondary School passes through Pragati Basic School in Chhetri Kharka and Serodevi Primary School in Mathekhark. The students of these two schools have also been facing the same issues.
The school buildings of Janpriye Secondary School and Serodevi Secondary School are 50 metres from the road while four classrooms of Pragati Basic School abut the road.
Approximately the Palpa-Nawalpur road stretch is used by 2,000 tippers, according to the data of Nisdi Rural Municipality.
The constant movement of heavy vehicles close to the school premises has not only resulted in noise pollution but has also made students’ commute to and from the schools risky.
Gunisara BK from Jyamire, whose ward attends Janpriye Secondary School, says his child’s safety worries him every day. “The truck drivers do not abide by the speed limit in school areas. They drive recklessly and I’m constantly worried about my child’s safety,” said BK.
“Our children have started refusing to go to school because the environment is not conducive for a healthy learning experience. At first, we all thought that the mining industry would be good for the area economically but its mismanagement puts our children’s lives at risk every day.”
According to Krishna Bahadur Rana, a local of Rollagah village—a four-hour walk from Jyamire—he is compelled to send his children to Janapriya Secondary School since it is the only secondary school in the area.
“We have no choice but to send our children to the school in Jyamire because that is the closest one to our village,” said Rana. “But now I am scared to send my wards to school because it’s risky. The mining industry only brought trouble to the area. The noise and dust pollution in the school area, coupled with the risk of being run over by speeding vehicles, is discouraging for parents and students alike,” he said.
The dust pollution in the area has also added to the expenses of parents while sending their children to school. “My children now need several sets of clothes to stay clean and dust-free and not all families can afford to buy them new clothes every other day,” he said.
Hem Bahadur Thapa, principal of Pragati Basic School, says the guardians of students at his school are constantly in a state of panic concerned about the safety of their children when in school.
“Parents themselves have difficulty manoeuvring their way to the school through this road section. Most parents come to drop off their children at school but several children make their way home on their own after school. The parents worry and some choose to not send their children to school,” said Thapa. “There has been an uptick in absenteeism of late.”
According to Thapa, crossing the road to get to school is risky for children with the constant movement of heavy vehicles. “The operation of heavy vehicles on this road stretch has affected the overall output of the students and teachers alike,” he said. “It’s getting difficult to run the school. This is a very stressful environment for students and they can’t be expected to do well academically.”
The road is steep in the section where it passes Serodevi Primary School, resulting in a higher decibel noise in the area, says Santosh Bhattarai, principal of Serodevi Primary School. “Heavy vehicles are loud when in operation in steep areas and since the drivers don’t follow the restriction signs and use horns unnecessarily, the noise becomes unbearable,” said Bhattarai.
Cement factories, mine operators, transporters and locals have discussed the issue several times to reduce the speed of the tippers near the school areas but despite many discussions, the problem has not been resolved yet, said Gagan Singh Soti, ward chairman of Nisdi Rural Municipality-7.
“Road accidents are bound to occur if this continues but no matter how many times we complain to the concerned bodies, no steps have been taken to control the movement of heavy vehicles in school areas,” said Soti.
Niraj Neupane, a teacher at Janapriya Secondary School, says the noise and environmental pollution caused by the unabated movement of heavy vehicles in school areas has led to anxiety and respiratory issues in children.
“The students don’t feel safe when they come to school and become highly anxious. The dusty road and the fumes from the vehicles are the leading cause of children falling ill with respiratory problems,” said Neupane.
Dr Baburam Marasini, a retired director of Epidemiology and Disease Control Division under the Department of Health Services, says noise pollution can cause various health issues, especially in children.
“Sudden loud noises can affect children’s ability to concentrate. Air pollution, especially dust and smoke from vehicles, can trigger long-term respiratory diseases, eye problems and heart diseases,” Marasini told the Post. “Children should be kept away from loud persistent noises because the repercussions on health could be lasting.”
There are about 10 limestone mining industries in Rainadevi Chahara, Mathagadhi, Tinau, Nisdi and Rainadevi Chhahra rural municipalities in Palpa. The district is known to host the country’s largest limestone mine. Limestone is being extracted in different places of Palpa by Satyawati Cement, BS Cement, Hongshi Shivam Cement, Palpa Cement, Siddhartha Minerals, Kanchan Quarries, Sarbottam Cement and Alpha Cement.
The limestones are transported from the mining industry in the Mahabharat region to the cement industries in Rupandehi, Nawalparasi and Kapilvastu.
Aakash Chaudhary contributed reporting.