Valley chokes as air pollution levels shoot up

Kathmandu, March 25

Constitutional provisions to ensure citizens’ fundamental right to clean air has been limited to paper only and the pollution levels have only shot up over the years.

Article 35 of the Constitution of Nepal has established ‘Right to Clean Environment’ as fundamental right of the citizens.

It states, “Every person shall have the right to live in a clean and healthy environment.” There is also a provision that ‘victims of environmental pollution or degradation shall be entitled to compensation from the polluter as provided in the law’.

The Environmental Protection Act and National Ambient Air Quality Standard require the government to create a healthy and clean environment for people.

But the government lacks specific plans and programmes to control pollution to make the Valley a cleaner place to live and breathe in.

The capital city, which is bursting at the seams with population growing rapidly, with which comes rapid urbanisation, is choking on polluted air.

Numbeo, a crowd-sourced global database, has ranked Kathmandu (score 96.66 out of 100) the third most polluted city in the world after Tetovo (Macedonia) and Cairo (Egypt) at Pollution Index 2016.

The situation of air quality is worsening in the Valley with each passing day.

Sadly, the DoE, the pertinent government agency tasked with monitoring ambient air quality of the Kathmandu Valley and formulating and implementing policies accordingly, is ill-equipped.

Six monitoring stations were set up to monitor ambient air quality of the Kathmandu Valley in 2002, but they went kaput in 2007 and since then the agency has been relying on international agencies for measuring air quality.

Govinda Prasad Lamichhane, Environment Inspector at the DoE, said that the government, in collaboration with ADB-funded Kathmandu Sustainable Urban Transport Project and ICIMOD, had been preparing to set up nine state-of-the-art real time monitoring stations with display board in the Valley, within this fiscal.

“We have already concluded an agreement with KSUTP in this regard to set up four monitoring stations. DoE will invest in three and ICIMOD two stations. It will assist us in monitoring the air pollution and act accordingly,” he added.

Lamichhane said the government was also promoting the use of emission free electric vehicles and monitoring brick kilns to improve the air quality.

Vehicular emission is the major cause for deteriorating air quality in the urban areas where vehicular emission is much aggravated by substandard or adulterated fuel, narrow and poorly maintained streets, poor traffic management, old vehicles and poor vehicular maintenance.


Kathmandu third most polluted city in world

Numbeo, a crowd-sourced global database, has ranked Kathmandu (score 96.66 out of 100) the third most polluted city in the world after Tetovo (Macedonia) and Cairo (Egypt) at Pollution Index 2016.

According to Department of Environment figures, average PM10 was measured at 190 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) last fiscal, compared to 168 in the fiscal year 2013/14. WHO considers air unsafe when average exposure to fine particulate matter exceeds 10 µg/m3. The air pollution also exceeds the National Ambient Air Quality Standard of 120 µg/m3 prescribed by the government.

A two-hour average concentration of particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) during rush hour at three locations of Kathmandu (Putalisadak, Sorhakhutte and Maharajgunj) was found to be three to seven times higher than the NAAQS and up to 16 times higher than the WHO Guideline Value in 2014.

Putalisadak outdid all locations of the Valley with PM10 level of 781 µg/m3 and PM2.5 level of 260 µg/m3. Although data are for two-hour average, the results suggest that the PM level has potential for high health risk to city dwellers in the Valley.