Himalayan News Service

Kathmandu, May 27

The ministry of population and environment (MOPE) is well on its way to come up with a set of national ambient environmental standards on air quality, water quality and noise quality. A study team from Institute of Engineering (IOE) has come up with a set of recommended standards for the same, which is currently under scrutiny from various stakeholders.

At a stakeholders’ meeting on this issue carried out on Monday, there were views from certain parties that the standards should not be ascertained hastily lest there should be problems in implementation. However, there was a consensus that since it is high time the country needed environmental standards to combat the escalating levels of pollution, MOPE should come up with the standards by the end of this fiscal year as it had earlier planned.

Results of a monitoring campaign for Total Suspended Particulates (TSP) and Particulate Matter with a diameter less than 10 micrometer (PM10) held by the Environment Sector Programme Support (ESPS) component of MOPE in 2001 indicate that there are significant instances of non-compliance of WHO standards throughout central areas of Kathmandu.

As Chiranjibi Gautam, Advisor at ESPS disclosed, results of a study carried out from January 22 to February 7, 2002 also indicated that benzene levels were very high in Kathmandu, especially in Putalisadak. This carcinogenic pollutant was found to be in amounts of 23 to 67 micro grams per cubic metres while the WHO standard for this is 5 to 20 micro grams per cubic metres. The high benzene concentration is a result of using unleaded petrol with 3-5 per cent benzene as an anti-knock substitute.

The IOE study team has not yet proposed standards for fuel quality or benzene, but it has come up with standards for TSP, PM10, lead, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide. The proposal also includes the appropriate number of monitoring stations for different pollutants in Nepal. Similarly there are proposed standards for drinking water and water for irrigation and recreation.

Noise quality standards have been suggested for industrial, commercial, residential areas and silence zone. The team has also proposed a monitoring mechanism and sites for measurement.

“Whatever standards are eventually set, the government should come up with a national action plan to meet the given targets within a certain time frame,” said Toran Sharma, director of Nepal Environmental and Scientific Services. Implementation of the set standards would be very difficult otherwise.

Director of Clean Energy Nepal Bhushan Tuladhar suggested that MOPE could form a technical committee to finalise the standards, make an announcement for at least the Kathmandu valley and come up with a specific plan of action to ensure implementation. “The fate of the standards could otherwise very well be like the vehicle emission standards which have not been very effective,” he cautioned.

Among suggestions that came up at the stakeholder meeting was that standards for pollutants should be given sector-wise, such as for residential, industrial and urban areas. There were also comments upon the selection of the monitoring sites and concern over the unpractical standards for TSP and PM10.

Dr Bal Krishna Sapkota, IOE, explained that the standards for PM10 and TSP are higher as they are more dangerous to health. For sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, the values are more lax as some room should be allowed for the growth of industries in the country, he reasoned.

Gautam offered that the standards would at least be a start in environmental management. Although it is not necessary that standards be sincerely adhered to immediately after they are ascertained, it is necessary to begin at some point.