Foul air

The rising air pollution in Kathmandu valley has been causing immense concern, however, very little is being done to control it. This has adversely affected the health of the valley denizens who have to breathe the polluted air. The burning of fossil fuel, particularly the emissions from vehicles, is largely responsible for the alarming level of pollution. What is a matter of worry is that the valley’s air consists of poisonous gaseous pollutants like nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, benzene and carbon monoxide together with toxic micro pollutants like lead and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon. This has seen a spurt in the incidences of respiratory

diseases like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). This makes living condition unhealthy for the residents of the valley as it is being

increasingly difficult to find fresh air. Since the health of the citizens is of primary concern it goes

without saying that something should be done immediately in order to control harmful emissions.

Towards this end there have been attempts made to monitor the level of air pollution in the

capital city. But all the flurry of activities in this endeavour are petering out with six of the monitoring stations that were set up in places like Putali Sadak, Patan, Bhaktapur, Matsegaon, Tribhuvan University and Thamel now lying idle for the past five months. Incidentally, these monitoring stations were set up with the collaboration of DANIDA which provided the

technical support and also financed the stations. Moreover, the increasing number of vehicles reaching almost 400,000—more than the carrying capacity of the valley roads—is playing havoc with the air quality. Added to it is the negligence on the part of the

government which is showing its lack of commitment in works to ensure public health.

Meanwhile, the government should be strict

about the provisions for ensuring that vehicles not meeting the emission standards are not permitted to ply on the roads. There was talk about phasing

out vehicles more than 20 years old, but this has

remained only on paper. All vehicles should be

tested for emissions and provided with green stickers to certify that they meet the criteria set, and there must be no exceptions. There are some success

stories like the banning of Bikram tempos that were notorious for being polluters. In this case, the locals protested, and the government had to ban these vehicles. The government should come up with

more innovative ideas in reducing the air pollution. For instance, using public transport should be encouraged so that less vehicles ply on the roads.

Similarly, environment friendly vehicles like the electricity driven Safa tempos should be popularized. More tax should be imposed on vehicle imports as the number of vehicles are adding up and there are simply not enough roads for them. Traffic snarls are common and vehicular emissions reach the peak then. In the meantime, the concerned ministry should do the needful so that the pollution monitoring work by the stations resumes for this is one

of the first steps in the long term goal of reducing air pollution in the capital city.

A lining only

In spurts and gasps is how the tourism industry is moving ahead. The speed that it should have taken up post-CA polls, the all too historic exercise in the country, is nowhere to be seen. We tend to look at the monthly figures to check how the sector seems to be faring based on the tourist arrival figures. The statistics are more bewildering than comprehensible. The global recession may be blamed for dampening the international tourist movement but there are countries like Singapore and Indonesia that seems to have been spared. Nepal has its own internal problems like bandhs, strikes and disturbances that have hit hard the sensitive sector that tourism is.

As reports point to an increase in tourist arrivals in the last month, there is some amount of satisfaction but the numbers are not much to boast of. A

few months of increased number of visitors will not be able to create the one million that the VNY 2011 has the aim of hosting. The change of guards in the government has not been able to create the right environment for tourism to prosper. The political events have more been obstacles rather than in aiding the tourism sector to bounce back to its strength.