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New Kashmir tunnel: Commuters complain of high pollution, poor visibility

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Chenani and Nashri

Udhampur, April 16 : The state-of-the-art transverse ventilation system in the newly-opened 9.2 km Chenani-Nashri tunnel on the Jammu-Srinagar highway may not be working effectively as commuters are complaining of high pollution levels, eye irritation and suffocation inside what has been labelled as one of India’s infrastructural wonders.

Some of the commuters using the strategically-important tunnel in Jammu and Kashmir on a regular basis told IANS that they were also battling poor visibility caused by high pollution levels inside what is India’s first and the world’s sixth road tunnel that uses a hi-tech ventilation system to extract polluted air and maintain a constant flow of fresh air.

Balvinder Singh, a Delhi-based orthopaedic surgeon from Jammu, said he suffered breathing problems when he was inside the tunnel, built with Austrian technology at a cost of Rs 2,900 crore ($450 million) and inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 2.

“The ventilation system inside the tunnel probably doesn’t work effectively. As soon as we enter the tunnel during peak hours, the visibility starts plummeting. If we travel with the windows down, the pollution level rises. It causes breathing issues as well,” the surgeon with Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital told IANS.

“It feels as if we are passing through a gas chamber,” the surgeon said.

Anil Manhas, who works with the Jammu and Kashmir Education Department, uses the tunnel that has reduced the 41-km distance between Chenani in Udhampur to Nashri in Rambhan to just 11 km, slashing his travel time from two-and-a-half hours to a mere 10 minutes.

“I took it lightly when I used the tunnel for the first time. I had irritation in my eyes. It was also smoke-filled. This is happening regularly now and I think the ventilation system is not working. If this prevails for long… there are chances of vehicles meeting with accidents due to poor visibility,” Manhas said.

Asked about the problem, National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) spokesperson Vishnu Darbari said since Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (IL&FS) had constructed the tunnel, only they would be able to answer queries about it.

But Ashutosh Chandwar, Vice President, IL&FS, contended that the problem has to do with claustrophobia caused by travel though such a long and confined space.

“I do not know why the passengers are feeling such problems… There is absolutely no possibility of it. Whenever there is pollution inside the tunnel, its ventilation system will automatically start and exhaust out the pollution. What people are suffering is phobia of travelling through a long tunnel,” Chandwar told IANS.

He said the ventilation system of the tunnel was “well tested and can tackle every kind of pollution inside the tunnel”.

Environmentalist Vivek Chattopadhyay said pollution levels inside such a long tunnel were bound to increase but could be controlled if the ventilation functions properly.

The Programme Manager at the Centre for Science and Environment said such problems occur in hilly terrain and assimilation of pollutants often occur as these do not disperse easily.

“The problem of poor visibility due to pollution levels inside the tunnel is genuine and it is commonly seen. The problem can be solved only if the ventilation system works effectively,” Chattopadhyay told IANS.

Another problem commuters face on a routine basis is traffic congestion inside the tunnel.

“The traffic congestion due to the continuous flow of all kinds of vehicles is another major problem,” said Bhushan, a Jammu resident who works with the state government.

The NHAI had earlier said vehicles below BS-III engines won’t be allowed in.

However, the directive couldn’t be executed considering the volume of trucks that ply daily carrying essentials between Jammu and Kashmir, Chandwar of IL&FS said.

By : Rupesh Dutta

(Rupesh Dutta can be contacted at [email protected])

India

Travelling to Maharashtra from these states? Covid-negative report must

The Maharashtra government has issued a new set of rules according to which domestic passengers travelling via trains or flights will need to carry a RT-PCR negative test report with them to enter the state.

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Public and Police Relation During Corona

The Maharashtra government on Monday made it mandatory for all passengers coming in from Delhi NCR, Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Goa to procure a Covid-negative certificate to gain entry into the state.

The state government has issued a new set of rules, according to which domestic passengers travelling via trains or flights will need to carry a RT-PCR negative test report with them before entering the state.

Those coming via air will have to show the negative test report to airport officials before boarding the flight. The RT-PCR sample collection should have been done within 72 hours of the scheduled landing in Maharashtra. Those not carrying the reports will have to undergo the test at the landing airport. While the airport authorities will arrange for the tests, the passengers will pay for them.

Meanwhile, all passengers travelling to Maharashtra by trains originating or having halts at stations in Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat or Goa need to carry a negative RT-PCR test report not older than 96 hours before arrival in Maharashtra.

Passengers not carrying the report shall be screened for symptoms and body temperature at the alighting railway stations. Those without symptoms will be allowed to enter the state, while those who display symptoms will be made to undergo Rapid Antigen test.

The rules are relaxed for those travelling by road. Passengers entering the border will be screened for symptoms, including body temperature. Those without symptoms will be allowed entry, while those who display symptoms will be made to undergo a Rapid Antigen test.

The state government’s circular came hours after the Supreme Court sought a status report from governments of Delhi, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Assam on steps taken to control the spread of the coronavirus infection. The pandemic situation in Delhi has “worsened” and it has gone “out of control” in Gujarat, the Supreme Court had said.

While fresh cases of coronavirus infections continue to decline — or remain stagnant — in the worst-affected states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh, on the other hand, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and even Himachal Pradesh have been seeing a significant rise in active cases.

At least five persons died due to COVID-19 every hour on an average in Delhi in the last 24 hours, accounting for the largest chunk of such fatalities across the country, PTI reported. Gujarat, on the other hand, reported 1,495 fresh coronavirus positive cases, taking the total count of infections to 1,97,693. The biggest rise in active cases in the last two weeks has come in Rajasthan – an increase of more than 5,600 — followed by Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh.

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Cities

UP To Test Every Traveller From Delhi For Coronavirus

It seems the second Covid-19 has hit the national capital, he said, pointing to a spurt in cases there.

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COVID-19 antibody testing

The Uttar Pradesh government will test all travellers from Delhi for coronavirus, an official said on Sunday.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary R K Tiwari said the state government is also considering restrictions on the number of people at weddings and other social programmes.

Tiwari said infection cases have increased in UP districts bordering Delhi.

It seems the second Covid-19 has hit the national capital, he said, pointing to a spurt in cases there.

So, we are testing everyone coming from Delhi, be it by air, train or bus, he said.

When asked about the kind of curbs that may be imposed at social gatherings, Tiwari said the decision will be taken on the prevailing situation.

“Districts in western UP like Gautam Buddh Nagar and Ghaziabad have restricted social gatherings to 100. Necessary steps will be taken as per the prevailing situation in various places to stop the spread of the infection,” he said.

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Travel

US CDC advises against cruise ship travel

The advisory comes as the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the US has topped the 12 million mark, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

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cruise ship

Washington: The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued an advisory against cruise ship travels as Covid-19 transmission risk on liners is very high.

“For most travellers, cruise ship travel is voluntary and should be rescheduled for a future date,” Xinhua news agency quoted the CDC as saying in a statement posted on its website on Saturday.

The agency raised its warning to Level 4 from Level 3, citing “very high” Covid-19 risk on cruise ships.

It also advised liner passengers to get tested three to four days after the travel and stay at home for seven days even with negative test results.

In March, the CDC issued a no-sail order in response to the pandemic.

Last month, the agency came up with a framework for a phased resumption of liner operations.

Every ship must be certified by the CDC before travelers can board.

According to the CDC, from March 1 to September 28, there were “a total of 3,689 confirmed cases or Covid-like illness cases on cruise ships and 412 deaths”.

The advisory comes as the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the US has topped the 12 million mark, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

In its latest update on Sunday, the University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed that the country’s current caseload and death toll stood at 12,079,296 and 255,804, respectively.

By far, the US remains the nation worst hit by the pandemic, with the world’s most cases and deaths, making up more than 20 per cent of the global caseload.

US Covid-19 cases hit 10 million on November 9, and increased by 1 million within a week.

Starting from November 3, the number of daily cases have been surging above the threshold of 100,000, which has never been seen in past months.

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