Clearing the air

From waste management, sewage, over population, to air pollution everything has only got worse in Kathmandu

Issue #137 21-27 March 2003

Twenty years ago this week, Nepali Times published a special edition on Kathmandu's pollution. 

This editorial that week in 2003 summed up the situation, but it might as well have been written today. Waste management, sewage, over population, air pollution … everything has only got worse.

Excerpts from the editorial published on issue #137 21-27 March 2003:

It is a myth that Kathmandu is a valley. Actually it is a plateau, the terrain beyond the valley rim on all sides dips down to less than 900m. All these natural impediments pale in comparison to the human bungling that has turned one of the most spectacularly-located and culturally-vibrant capital cities in the world into a toilet bowl. The fact that Kathmandu’s old-world charm shines through all the grime, concrete and foul air is a tribute to our ancestors. They left us a legacy of beauty and architectural harmony, but what legacy are we leaving for our grandchildren? 

It is said that the test of a civilisation is the way it treats its waste. Well, we don’t treat it. On that count alone, we fail miserably to attain a civilised status. The raw sewage emptying into the Bagmati, the industrial waste that makes this holy river froth at Chobar, and the powerful odour of death and decay over the bridge at Kopundole all remind us of our own callousness. 

Then there is the growing garbage crisis, each time we pass the neighbourhood heap, the stench reminds us of our inability to separate and turn its organic constituents into valuable fertiliser, and the failure to stop use of non-biodegradables like plastic bags. 

Even more shocking is our breathtaking disregard for air quality. As our investigative report in this issue makes clear, we are choking ourselves to death. The paradox here is that we know it, we know what should be done about it, we have the laws in place to do it, but we still don't do it.

From archive material of Nepali Times of the past 20 years, site search:

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