Nepal | September 30, 2020

Lockdown lowers pollution levels; gifts all clean air, blue skies

Can we capitalise on this and make sure we keep this up, ask experts

Shaurya Kshatri
Share Now:

Kathmandu

The COVID-19 pandemic has shut industrial activity, cancelled flights and restricted vehicular movements, slashing emissions and air pollution around the world. Nepal has also seen something to be positive about when it comes to air quality since the government imposed a lockdown on March 24.

According to research carried out by the Global Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies, the PM2.5 concentration in Kathmandu can be seen to have declined since. “Prior to the lockdown, the average mean of PM2.5 concentration was 135.4 µg/m3; after the lockdown, it has gone down to 108.3µg/m3,” says Dr Uttam Babu Shrestha, Director at Global Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies.

With only a handful of vehicles plying on the streets and frequent rains in the past few weeks, the air seems visibly cleaner. As of April 28, the Air Quality Index (AQI) averaged around 59 to 88 µg/m3 in Ratnapark as per Department of Environment Air Quality Monitoring.

Considering the fact that in Kathmandu, AQI levels are usually a harmful 150µg/m3 a day, it seems as if the denizens are breathing fresh air. Yet the level of pollution hasn’t gone down as was expected by the experts.

Anything above 25 µg/m3is deemed unsafe by the World Health Organisation. “We had expected PM2.5 concentration to go below 60 to 70µg/m3,” admits Bhushan Tuladhar, Chairperson, Environment and Public Health Organisation. In Biratnagar, for example, the concentration has gone down by a mere 13 µg/m3.

With some of the world’s most polluted cities like Delhi seeing unprecedented decrease in air quality, why is it that Nepal hasn’t seen such drastic changes? Tuladhar and Dr Shrestha cite the increase in crop burning, mostly in the Tarai as the main reason. Farmers in the southern plains have resorted to stubble burning as they cannot transport and sell farm residues owing to the ongoing lockdown. With the border sealed, they have not been able to sell wheat straws to Indian buyers this year, and have instead turned to stubble burning.

Tuladhar says crop burning is one of the main reasons for toxic air and a prime reason for increasing PM2.5 concentration along with vehicular emissions.

“And many people are staying home, cleaning houses, and since waste management has been difficult, many are burning waste in their own neighbourhood,” adds Dr Shrestha. This time of the year is also when the nation experiences a spike in forest fires.

Urban forestry, open spaces and clean ponds and lakes are almost nonexistent in the country.

“Roadside trees are considered to reduce PM2.5 concentration by 24 per cent. But trees are rarely seen,” mourns Tuladhar.

As per IQAir’s Air quality and pollution city ranking of April 28, Kathmandu ranks eighteenth among most polluted cities.

“Pollution can be reduced, and as Nepal has seen it can be achieved,” pointed out Tuladhar talking about the decline in air pollution around the Valley from 2002 to 2007. In March 2002, the Industrial Promotion Board decided to ban brick kilns that use outdated bulls trench kiln technology after denizens of Bhaktapur rioted against pollution.

“The way people commute should be considered and we should stick to maintain this air quality and try to lower it further,” advises Dr Shrestha.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on April 29, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.

Follow The Himalayan Times on Twitter and Facebook

Recommended Stories:

More from The Himalayan Times:

Diogo Jota

Liverpool maintain 100% start with win over Arsenal

LIVERPOOL: Premier League champions Liverpool maintained their 100% start to the season with a 3-1 win against Arsenal at Anfield on Monday leaving them level on nine points with pacesetters Everton and Leicester City. The visitors took the lead through an Alexandre Lacazette strike but L Read More...

Fulham, Aston Villa, Ivan Cavaleiro, Matty Cash

Villa beat Fulham 3-0 to move into top four

LONDON: Aston Villa moved into the Premier League top four after they strolled to a 3-0 win at Fulham thanks to goals from Jack Grealish, Conor Hourihane and Tyrone Mings in a lopsided contest on Monday. The result left Villa, who narrowly avoided relegation last season, fourth on a maximu Read More...

Private hospitals, labs to charge Rs 3,899 for PCR test

KATHMANDU, SEPTEMBER 28 Private hospitals have fixed their own rate for conducting polymerase chain reaction tests, saying that the fee allocated by the Ministry of Health and Population was too less. Eight private hospitals and labs, including HAMS Hospital, Star Hospital, B&B Hospital an Read More...

President issues ordinances on acid attack punishment, acid sale regulation

KATHMANDU, SEPTEMBER 28 President Bidhya Devi Bhandari today issued two ordinances to increase jail sentence for acid attackers and to regulate the sale and distribution of acid and other harmful chemicals. One of the ordinances amended the new penal code, proposing to increase jail term for a Read More...

Editorial: Unemployment problem cannot be addressed unless all levels of govt work together to create jobs within the country

The unemployment problem cannot be addressed unless all levels of govt work together to create jobs within the country Unemployment is a big problem in Nepal. That is why youths in large numbers migrate to other countries, mostly India, the Middle East, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan, where they e Read More...

Ayurvedic literature: Delving into its history

The travelogue of Chinese pilgrim Faxian was the earliest testimony to describe the healthcare system in ancient South Asia. It is close to the description by the earliest Ayurvedic compendium, Charaka Samhita Ayurveda has become a buzzword in the contemporary setting of medicine in the era of COVI Read More...

Six student leaders arrested for staging protest outside Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu

KATHMANDU, SEPTEMBER 28 Six student leaders of Nepal Student Union, the student wing of major opposition Nepali Congress, were arrested today for staging a protest outside the Chinese Embassy at Baluwatar against the alleged border encroachment by the Chinese side in Humla district. The NSU le Read More...

Woman found dead in Saptari district

A police team has been deployed from Province Police Office, Janakpur, to investigate the case RAJBIRAJ, SEPTEMBER 28 A 50-year-old woman was found dead at Mayanakaderi village, Ward No 2 of Tirhut Rural Municipality, Saptari, yesterday. The body of Dayaman Devi, wife of local Shiv Narayan, w Read More...