Some of the reasons that lead to cancellation and delays of flights from the Tribhuvan International Airport are excess air-traffic, frequent V-VIP movements, construction work and hazardous weather conditions. It is time we embraced another cause, and that is pollution, which eventually leads to poor visibility, halting air traffic movements. Though this problem has not been witnessed yet, yet the pollution level in the Kathmandu Valley has been increasing over the years and is cause for alarm.
Recently, the Indian capital, New Delhi, got blanketed in heavy smog due to pollution, and this had a domino effect on its airports, delaying many flights or forcing them to be diverted as the pollution reached “unbearable” levels. New Delhi was ranked the most polluted city in the world in 2018, according to reports prepared by Greenpeace and Air Visual, and it is very unlikely that the rating will get better this year, as the city continues to be blanketed in smog.
Must be wondering where Kathmandu stood. Kathmanduites can still heave a sigh of relief as the city hung itself at exact number 100. In this regard, out of those 100 most polluted cities, 57 were in China. But it is stated that Chinese cities have seen remarkable improvement in recent times, so Kathmandu is very likely to move up in terms of pollution in the coming year. In terms of the most polluted countries, Nepal stands at number ten, after India, Pakistan, China, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Mongolia, Kuwait, Bosnia-Herzegovina and the UAE, respectively.
India is also taking measures to fight pollution with its push for electric vehicles. The Indian transport minister has announced to build an efficient transportation system based on electric vehicles by 2030. Following the crisis, they have opted for odd-even rotation of vehicles, despite criticism from the public.
But here in Nepal, are we doing anything to fight air pollution? The use of electric vehicles is lagging behind. Sajha Yatayat’s bid to induct some 300 electric buses into its fleet has yet to materialise.
If the country does not implement strong measures to curb air pollution soon, then the days are not far when Kathmandu could choke in heavy pollution, just like the Indian capital is witnessing. To rephrase what Indian leader Subhash Chandra Bose said, ‘Delhi not too far now’ from Kathmandu when it comes to pollution.
A version of this article appears in print on November 22, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.