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How bad is the air?

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017
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The Ministry of Environment rolled out its air quality monitoring station at Ratna Park on Tuesday with US Ambassador Alaina Teplitz and ICIMOD director David Molden.

The Ministry of Environment rolled out its air quality monitoring station at Ratna Park on Tuesday with US Ambassador Alaina Teplitz and ICIMOD director David Molden. Photos: Kunda Dixit

The Ministry of Population and Environment (MoPE) in cooperation with the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and the US Embassy on Tuesday unveiled the first of a series of air quality monitoring stations in Nepal that will feed live pollution data online.

Two monitoring stations at Ratna Park and the US Embassy in Phora Durbar were inaugurated by MoPE Secretary Bishwa Nath Oli, US Ambassador Alaina Teplitz and ICIMOD Director David Molden in back-to-back ceremonies. The US Embassy station will feed data to the Environment Protection Agency  (EPA) in Washington DC as part of its real time air quality index measurements of major world cities.

Teplitz hailed the cooperation between the US and Nepal governments to improve air quality through data and public awareness. She said: “Improving air quality is good economic investment as well as an investment in improving health. It shows that enhancing prosperity must go hand-in-hand with protecting health, a healthy environment translates into a healthy population.”

air quality monitoring kathmandu

US Ambassador Alaina Teplitz during the unveiling of the  air quality monitoring station at Ratna Park.

ICIMOD’s Molden said the Ratna Park station is part of a network that includes measurement stations in Lumbini, Chitwan, Pulchok and Dhulikhel and in future will form a more ambitious chain of 56 stations all over the country.

“The Nepali public will have live air quality data and this will open the door for people to make choices of activities based on pollution levels, provide the basis for emergency response by the government and help design better mitigation efforts,” Molden said.

Secretary Oli of MoPE said he hoped that live data would help the government determine the source of pollutants in order to take steps to reduce the concentration of suspended particulate matter. Public outrage about pollution has grown because of unhealthy levels of dust in Kathmandu caused by road construction.

Experts have said that dust, although very visible and uncomfortable, is not as dangerous as emission from vehicles. However, it has raised awareness about pollution, and has put pressure on the government to do something to reduce the health hazard.

Vehicular emissions is set to grow in Kathmandu because of larger numbers of vehicles, ineffective emission controls and poorly maintained heavy trucks and buses. Brick kilns and open burning of garbage also contribute to the pollution, which is exacerbated by temperature inversion in the Valley, especially in winter.

Besides detecting the concentration of suspended particulate matter, especially the ones below 2.5 microns from vehicular emissions, the Ratna Park and US Embassy stations also measure in real time the concentration of nitrous oxides and carbon monoxide from diesel exhaust, and sulphur dioxide from brick kilns.

After launching the US Embassy site, Teplitz said: “We are all breathing the same air, and we are all here to work together to improve its quality.”

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5 Responses to “How bad is the air?”

  1. ANepali on Says:

    Monitoring is needed for evaluating progress in the future, but it is more important at the moment to develop and implement action plans. Everyone knows the air pollution in Kathmandu is already very bad. What the people want is something done (yesterday) to improve it. At this stage, monitoring is not a prerequisite to have and implement remedial plans and regulations. There is a series of TV ads in the US that goes something like this: A bank is being robbed by armed robbers and the bank customers are all prone on the ground looking scared and directly at a uniformed bank security personnel. The armed bank personnel tells the customers calmly, I am a “monitor” not a “security guard”. He goes on to fulfill his job responsibility and tell all the scared customers, “The bank is being robbed!” (…as if they already did not know it). So what happens after the ribbon cutting ceremony for the monitoring stations?

  2. Shyam Thapa on Says:

    It is a great step in the right direction in monitoring the quality of air in Kathmandu. However, more is needed in enforcing the laws in emission of vehicles in the city. We can not ban diesel vehicles plying in the city of Kathmandu. However, we can convert them to run with CNG which cause less pollution. Our heart bleeds when you see vehicles emitting smoke like chimneys in the city, particularly public transport. Can some like Mr. Kul Man take charge of the Ministry of Environment and reduce pollution in Kathmandu. We have already demoted the city to be one of the dirtiest and most polluted one in the world in the name of urbanization and development.

  3. Eric Bot on Says:

    You don’t need a monitoring station to know the air quality is bad in Kathmandu. What’s the Ministry of Environment proposing to do about it?

  4. yam gurung on Says:

    On my recent visit to Nepal from 16 January-22 February 2017.Air and the noise,pollution indeed has cross the line of control. Even the mask made in UK.I was wearing was not protecting the toxic air coming from the old vehicles and from the incompetent road works.
    Incompetent Nepal government indeed has failed to tackle the air and the noise pollution in the capital and across the nation.And trying to bury us alive???..

  5. Shyam Thapa on Says:

    I do not think there is government in Nepal as all have failed dismally in every thing. Talk of pollution control, governance, security, basic needs like water, shelter, reconstruction of earthquake affected houses, education, employment; all have failed. Our international donors and friends are just witness to them. They have also failed to persuade the present and past government to do some thing for the people. They have joined the bandwagon as well. We do not need monitoring devices to detect the pollution in cities. It is evident visually when vehicles ply on the roads. First and foremost the educational institutes must ban vehicles emitting smoke beyond the allowable limit. There are many schools and colleges with the names inscribed on the buses emitting smoke like chimneys. This ban should then be followed by international missions to withdraw all diesel vehicles.

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