A study commissioned by the Asian Development Bank has warned several Asian cities, including Kathmandu, against their polluted air turning into a killer. The Kathmandu Valley’s air pollution or fine particulate matter reaching ‘serious levels’ is worrisome. But the problem is worsening because of the fast pace of urbanisation and increase in the number of traditional brick kilns and the vehicles that fail to meet Euro II standards. Carbon emissions from obsolete and smoke-bellowing vehicles are contributing to global warming, apart from posing a serious health hazard and adversely affecting bio-diversity.

The government’s half-hearted measures are primarily to blame for the failure to reduce pollution considerably. The quality of air cannot improve if the rules are made only to be relaxed under pressure from powerful people or lobbies. A case in point is the ban slapped on vehicles over 20 years old, which was hardly ever implemented because of the vehicle owners’ protests. It was also wrong to dispatch the polluting Vikram tempos to towns in the Terai in order to relieve the problem of Kathmanduites to a certain extent. The capital’s pollution should not be managed at the expense of other towns. Besides, to improve the quality of air, the authorities could focus on promoting renewable sources of energy, enhancing fuel quality, checking fuel adulteration, improving road conditions and encouraging mass use of public transport. Ultimately, political resolve is key to the success of any policy or programme.