The Sikkim government has made it mandatory for all vehicles registered in the state to carry oxygen supply kits or canisters from July 1 to avert health hazards for passengers at high altitudes.
State transport secretary Raj Yadav issued a notification to the effect on Wednesday. The notification said portable oxygen kits or canisters were compulsory for all vehicles (personal and commercial).
The kits and canisters will be certified by the state health department, while police and the motor vehicles division of the transport department will conduct frequent checkings to make sure that the vehicles adhere to the order.
Sikkim has a number of popular tourist destinations — mostly in the north of the state — which are located above 10,000ft. They include Lachen, Lachung, Gurudongmar Lake and Yumthang.
Incidents of tourists, especially senior citizens and children, facing breathing problems were reported from Tsomgo (Chhangu) Lake, Nathu-la and Baba Mandir which are in the east of the Himalayan state.
In June last year, the transport department had issued an advisory, saying all vehicles, including two-wheelers, that travel to high altitudes should carry portable oxygen cans.
Medical practitioners in Siliguri said because of low oxygen levels, one could have dizziness, headache, muscle ache, nausea, and high-altitude pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs), which can be fatal.
“We welcome the decision. If any tourist faces breathing problems in high altitude areas, it is not possible to bring the person to lower stretches promptly. In such situations, oxygen kits can be of immediate help,” said Samrat Sanyal, the general secretary of the Himalayan Hospitality & Tourism Development Network.
7 hurt in crash
Seven tourists, all from Gujarat, were injured in a road accident at Seventh Mile in Ranipool of Gangtok district on Wednesday morning.
Sources said the tourists were travelling downhill in an SUV on NH10 when a truck going in the same direction developed a technical snag. The track rammed into the SUV from behind and hit another truck also. The tourists were taken to Central Referral Hospital in Tadong.
Traffic on NH10 came to a halt following the crash. The vehicles moving between Gangtok and Ranipool were diverted through Adampool Bypass and Shayaari.