EDITORIAL: Going electric

One of the best ways to deal with rising air pollution can be switching to e-vehicles from fossil-fuel run cars

Air pollution has been increasing in the Kathmandu Valley and other cities due to vehicular emissions, burning of coal in brick kilns, dust particles from the streets and burning of agricultural haystack and dung in rural areas, especially during winter. Air pollution has also been causing serious respiratory problems in the urban areas. According to a latest report, the patients visiting hospitals in the Valley has increased almost by 25 percent with complaints of respiratory problems. The government figures show that vehicular emissions contribute 38 percent to air pollution. Considering all these, the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers (OPMCM) has directed the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport to come up with a policy to promote the use of electric vehicles, including e-scooters, to combat air pollution. Air pollution has become one of the major environmental concerns in major cities all over the world, especially in developing countries. The OPMCM decided to ask its line ministry after holding a series of meetings with stakeholders and environmentalists on the ways of tackling rising levels of air pollution, which have affected the entire population in the Valley and other parts of the country.

According to the Department of Environment, average PM10 is measured at over 190 micrograms per cubic metre in Valley due to vehicular emissions. The World Health Organisation (WHO) guideline has set the 24-hour mean for PM10 at 50 micrograms per cubic metre. Similarly, the WHO has set 24-hour mean for PM2.5 at 25 micrograms per cubic metre. These particulate matters are extremely hazardous to our health, as they penetrate deep into our lungs.

The Valley’s PM2.5 level has been consistently recorded well over 120 micrograms per cubic metre, which is the National Ambient Air Quality Standard prescribed by the government. It is very alarming considering the level of air pollution in the Valley. It is high time the government and stakeholders took immediate remedial measures to improve the air quality and environment. One of the best ways to deal with this alarming situation is cutting the number of vehicles running on fossil fuels and bringing in more e-vehicles and, switching to mass transportation such as metro and mono rails. Electric vehicles can be very useful for urban transportation. However, price of an electric vehicle is still very expensive, beyond the reach of an average Nepali, mainly because of the government’s unfriendly policy. Although the government slashed the customs tariff from 40 per cent to 10 per cent on e-vehicles for personal use, it has hardly helped in reducing prices of e-vehicles. There’s a need of regulating the price to encourage people to switch to e-vehicles. Apart from this, the government and Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) should also set up charging stations at several convenient places in the city areas and encourage the private sector to do the same. After installation of charging stations the NEA will also earn more from the sale of surplus energy during off-peak hours.

A step forward

Rupakot Majhuwagadhi Municipality in Khotang has endorsed a new educational regulation. This comes in line with the power vested in the local levels by the constitution to manage basic and secondary education. According to Bikash Rai, social development coordinator of the municipality, endorsement of the regulation is aimed at ensuring quality education from the municipality itself. “Through this regulation, we take the ownership of some schools and colleges and impart quality education,” he said.

The whole idea of strengthening local units with more powers is aimed at ensuring overall development of all the sectors, including the education sector. Hence, the municipality’s move is a welcome step. The regulation has laid down specific rules for teachers while ensuring some benefits for them, which officials said will hugely help in improving quality of education. Apart from 98-day maternity leave and Rs 5,000 cash allowance for female teachers, the regulation has ensured 15-day leave for male teachers to take care of new mother. The municipality has provisioned Master’s in Education as mandatory qualification to become head teacher of a secondary school. The regulation also envisions a powerful committee to devise education plans. Such moves are expected to improve quality of education.