KATHMANDU: With Kathmanduites being gassed every day thanks to the ever increasing vehicular pollution, the government has decided to restrict the sale and movement of automobiles and two-wheelers in the valley.
A high-level committee constituted by the Madhav Kumar Nepal government has come up with some hard suggestions to make Kathmandu’s air cleaner and healthier. The committee headed by Under Secretary Gag Pokharel went into a plethora of issues, including vehicular emissions and noise pollution and their impact on public health.
What prompted the government to act was the recent World Health Organisation report that declared Kathmandu as one of the most polluted cities of the world. The WHO report on the most polluted cities identified vehicular emission as the main cause for putting Kathmandu in the sorry state.
Recent studies have revealed that air pollution levels are the highest during peak traffic hours and at places with greater traffic density. A study done in 2004 for the trolley bus project in Kathmandu showed that the number of vehicles registered in Kathmandu alone in a decade (1994-2004) increased by 211 per cent. The data on the registration of the vehicles shows that hundreds of vehicles are flooding into the valley every day.
To rectify the problems, the ministry of physical planning and works has been working for the ‘Kathmandu Sustainable Urban Transport Project’ with the assistance of Asian Development Bank. It aims to reduce the number of motorised vehicles, as well as encourage people to travel by public transport or walk instead of using their private vehicles.
The ministry had also proposed earlier in December, to discourage easy financing on vehicle purchase in order to lower the traffic chaos in the valley. Even the recommendations were to hike the import duty and renewable fees.
In this context the high-level Pokharel committee has recommended the Singapore model wherein citizens are discouraged from purchasing vehicles. In this context the committee suggested that the customs duty, excise duty and VAT and Road Tax be increased from the existing 207 per cent to 500 per cent on four wheelers and from the existing 130 per cent to 300 per cent on two wheelers.
The increasing vehicles are not only creating the traffic chaos but also affecting the health of the people. “The particulate matter with less than 10 micron diameter could directly reach the lungs and the vehicles emit the particulate matter more than 10 micron, which has been proved as one of the causative agent for the chronic bronchitis and acute respiratory illnesses and exacerbation of asthma,” said Prof Bal Krishna Sapkota, an air pollution expert. Chronic bronchitis and asthma lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
The studies have revealed that the vehicular emissions are responsible for 38 per cent of the total particulate matter with less than 10 micron diameter (PM10) emitted in Kathmandu Valley, compared to 18 per cent from the agricultural sector and 11 per cent from brick kilns.
Air pollution has become a huge problem in urban areas of the nation, particularly in the bigger cities. UN’s Environment Programme has mentioned that the Kathmandu Valley is particularly vulnerable to air pollution because of its bowl-shaped topography that restricts air movement.

Automobile duty up
Like the past years. we caught you unawares. The front page story on duty on vehicles in Kathmandu valley is an April Fool gag, invented by a creative team of journalists. However, on a serious note The Himalayan Times hopes the government would look into the gravity of core issue in the larger interests of people of Kathmandu.

Happy Fools Day.