Gangtok, June 08: In a significant move aimed at safeguarding the well-being of passengers traveling to high-altitude areas, the Sikkim government has announced a new regulation mandating all vehicles registered in the state to carry oxygen supply kits or canisters starting from July 1.
The notification, issued by State Transport Secretary Raj Yadav, highlights the importance of portable oxygen kits or canisters for both personal and commercial vehicles. The objective behind this mandatory requirement is to address potential health hazards that passengers may encounter due to the scarcity of oxygen at higher altitudes.
To ensure compliance with the directive, the kits and canisters must be certified by the state health department. Regular inspections will be conducted by the police and the motor vehicles division of the transport department to verify that vehicles adhere to the new regulation.
Sikkim, renowned for its captivating tourist destinations, particularly in the northern region, is home to several locations situated above 10,000 feet. Notable places include Lachen, Lachung, Gurudongmar Lake, and Yumthang. Over the years, incidents have been reported of tourists, especially senior citizens, and children, experiencing breathing difficulties at popular sites such as Tsomgo (Chhangu) Lake, Nathu-la, and Baba Mandir, located in the eastern part of the Himalayan state.
Last year, in June, the transport department issued an advisory recommending the presence of portable oxygen cans for all vehicles, including two-wheelers, traveling to high-altitude areas.
Medical practitioners in Siliguri emphasized that low oxygen levels at higher altitudes can lead to symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, muscle aches, nausea, and potentially fatal high-altitude pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs).
The decision to mandate oxygen kits for vehicles has been widely welcomed by the tourism sector. Samrat Sanyal, the general secretary of the Himalayan Hospitality & Tourism Development Network, expressed appreciation for the new rule, noting its crucial role in providing immediate assistance to tourists experiencing breathing difficulties in remote high-altitude regions. Prompt access to oxygen can prove vital in such situations when it may not be feasible to transport individuals to lower altitudes promptly.
This proactive step by the Sikkim government underscores its commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of travelers exploring the breathtaking landscapes of the state’s high-altitude areas.