High pollution level taking toll on public health, says NHRC

Kathmandu, December 12

Citizens were denied their fundamental rights to live in clean and healthy environment guaranteed by the constitution, but the government was not assessing its adverse impact on public health, said the National Human Rights Commission.

According to the annual human rights report released by the rights body last week, air pollution is making people susceptible to skin, eye and respiratory diseases, it has equally impacted cognitive and psychological well-being of the people, specially in Kathmandu valley. The NHRC warned that unmanaged construction of physical infrastructure had contributed to the highest portion of PM2.5 concentration in the air with 53 per cent, followed by vehicle emission (30 per cent), brick kilns (9 per cent), indoor smoke (5 per cent) and factories and open burning of refuse, one per cent each.

“Outdoor and indoor emission sources are major reasons behind deteriorating pollution level. Therefore, the government and concerned stakeholders need to be more sensitive towards tackling the pollution menace,” the report said, urging the authorities to implement the recommendations it made to the government from time to time in line with the Supreme Court order.

Earlier, the rights body had recommended that the government mitigate adverse impacts of environmental pollution in public health and promote cleanliness in valley to ensure that the citizen’s rights live in clean environment is not violated. Article 35 (4) of the constitution establishes each citizen’s right to safe drinking water and sanitation as fundamental rights. Article 30 (1) says each citizen shall have the right to live in clean and healthy environment and enjoy compensation for the harm caused by pollution.

According to the NHRC, unplanned digging of roads, poor implementation of development projects, unsafe disposal of hospital and industrial wastes, air pollution due to dust and smoke emitted by brick kilns, vehicular emission, irregular collection and disposal of household wastes, delay in blacktopping roads and haphazard dumping of construction materials, among others, were responsible for increasing environmental pollution in the valley.

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). Source: NHRC
National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). Source: NHRC

The NHRC has recommended the government to develop a schedule comprising the date of commencement and completion of construction work before implementing development activities, and press concerned contractor to abide by pollution control measures as set forth in the laws.  It also asked the government to formulate a law which empowers the authorities concerned to impose on-the-spot fine on vehicles not meeting emission standards.

It has also urged the government to set up vehicular emission testing facilities at entry points of the valley and make the green sticker mandatory for vehicles in Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur. The NHRC has recommended the government to bring motorcycles and scooters under the provision of regular exhaust emission, besides increasing number of vehicular emission testing facilities.

The rights body reminded that it had directed the government to segregate wastes at their sources, rid the valley of visual pollution, determine time schedule for collection of waste in every area, control stray cattle, manage chemical wastes produced by hospitals and factories, enforce emission standards set for brick kilns, and make a provision of regular check-up of persons and children working in brick kilns. The NHRC had also recommended the government to formulate necessary law which required polluters to pay compensation to  pollution victim as per Article 30 (2) of the constitution.