EDITORIAL: Poor air quality

Most countries have stringent rules to be followed to improve their air quality. It is high time that Nepal followed suit

According to the Environment Performance Index 2016, Nepal has the dubious distinction of being ranked 149 among 180 countries as far as the quality of air is concerned.

The sorry thing is that most of the countries are trying to do something about this and making things better, but Nepal has been doing virtually nothing in order to deal with the air pollution that is affecting the health of tens of thousands of people and causing many serious diseases.

Most countries have stringent rules to be followed to improve their air quality. It is high time that Nepal followed suit by taking effective initiatives to do so. Furthermore, according to another study, Kathmandu is ranked as the third most polluted city in the world.

This could have a telling effect on tourist arrivals and tourism is a good source of government revenue and foreign currency.

At present Nepal’s national air pollution standard is 40 microgram per cubic meter but the pollution level in the capital valley is above 200 micrograms per cubic meter which should sound the alarm bell and calls for immediate remedial action to be taken.

The country is in desperate need of monitoring stations in order to measure the air quality.

Although the Danish government had installed seven air quality monitoring stations in the Kathmandu Valley as far back as 2002 and then handed them over to the Nepali government on 2008 these stations were closed after the misunderstanding between the government and the Danish government in 2009.

This was indeed very unfortunate. After 2008 the government entrusted the Environment and Public Health Organization with the task of managing them.

The country now is planning to install 56 such stations throughout the country. The Department of Environment says that for the time being it is preparing to install three air quality monitoring stations in Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Kavrepalanchok by August.

It has also been decided to install six air quality monitoring machines in Khumaltar, Machchhegaun, Teku, Bhaktapur and Kapan or Maharajgunj soon.

For these the department has already imported four containers and three machines for monitoring the particulate matter. These machines would be able to monitor the dust particles and four kinds of air pollutants.

Then these machines would send reports to the central server in due time.

This would be forwarded automatically to the central server of the National Information Technology Centre and this information would be posted on the website of the Department of Environment.

As the country is reeling under power shortages which would cause obstructions on sending the data to the central server, support has been sought from various quarters to install solar power systems in the nation. In the meantime, it is high time we stopped depending on fossil fuel.

The burning of such fuel and vehicular emissions are mostly responsible for the poor air quality. Stress must be laid on using hydropower and even solar power in meeting the energy needs which the country possesses in abundance.

These sources of energy would assist immensely in seeing to it that the air pollution in the country meets the international standards.

Dearth of lawyers

The mountainous district of Manang is the only district in the country where very few cases are lodged with the district court.

Due to the absence of adequate number of cases in the court there are no legal practitioners to plead on behalf of a plaintiff or a defendant.

Whenever anyone needs to file a case in the district court, mostly related to property dispute, s/he cannot find a competent legal professional to prepare a legal document.

Statistics show that there was only one legal case filed at the court during the fiscal year 2014/15 and nine cases were filed in the fiscal year 2015/16.

Only a very limited number of cases are registered with the district court in this sparsely populated mountainous district because most of the minor cases are settled at the village level by the traditional village council.

Considering the shortage of legal practitioners the Pokhara-based Appellate Court is mulling over hiring legal professionals on monthly salary basis.

Even the district judges are dispatched there on a periodic basis as it is not needed to be present there all the time.

The government should see that legal practitioners are available in the district so that people can get legal service whenever they may need it.