The Office of the Auditor General has revealed that the Government of Nepal is apathetic to the idea of spending the pollution control fee collected from consumers.

Section 13 (1) of the existing Financial Act stipulates a provision, which allows the government to levy a pollution charge of Rs 1.50 per litre on petrol and diesel to be sold or distributed inside Nepal. According to the 58th annual report (2019-20) of the OAG, recently submitted to President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, the Ministry of Forests and Environment collected pollution control fee amounting to Rs 9.43 billion from fiscal 2008-09 to fiscal 2019-20. Likewise, Rs 3.3 billion was collected in the fiscal 2019-20 alone.

The amount collected as pollution control fee was deposited into the consolidated fund of the government. "Despite collecting such a huge amount, it does not seem to have been spent on prevention and control of air pollution.

The government is obliged to spend the fee only for the purpose it has been collected," suggested the OAG.

Citizens have not been able to enjoy their fundamental right to live in a clean and healthy environment as guaranteed by the constitution.

Pollution is one of the most worrisome problems in Nepal, especially Kathmandu valley and other urban areas.

The government has already issued Kathmandu Valley Air Quality Management Action Plan, 2020, to ensure the fundamental right of citizens to live in a clean and healthy environment, but it not being implemented in an effective manner. 'Kathmandu valley with clean and healthy air' as the vision of the action plan.

The action plan has set eight objectives to realise the vision, which include reduction of outdoor pollution generated or emitted by transport and construction sectors, industrial enterprises and household waste; reduction of indoor pollution; awareness raising about the condition of air pollution, its causes, potential impact on public health, and mitigation and preventive measures; developing decision support system for air quality management; air pollution management in emergency situations; and ensuring financial resource for air pollution control by strengthening policy, legal and institutional frameworks, among others.

However, the OAG has found the government lacking in efforts to control pollution through proper utilisation of the amount collected as pollution control fee.

National Ambient Air Quality Standard of Nepal has set the standard for particulate matter with aerodynamic size less than 10 micrometres called PM10 and particulate matter with aerodynamic size less than 2.5 micrometres called PM2.5. National standard for PM2.5, PM10 and total suspended particulate are 230, 120 and 40 respectively.

On the contrary, air pollution in Kathmandu city is several times higher than the standard set by the World Health Organisation and the Government of Nepal.

According to a recent report made public by the National Human Rights Commission, unmanaged construction of physical infrastructure has contributed the highest in terms of PM2.5 concentration in the air covering 53 per cent, followed by vehicle emission (30 per cent), brick kilns (nine per cent), indoor smoke (five per cent) and factories and open burning of refuse one per cent each.

A version of this article appears in the print on August 25 2021, of The Himalayan Times.