A public perception survey among Kathmandu Valley residents conducted last year shows near unanimous agreement that pollution levels are bad and getting worse. The survey was conducted via social media and asked residents of Kathmandu Valley about the pollution level in their neighbourhood, their commuting habits and their perspective on actions needed to improve air quality.
Carried out by Air South Asia and Clean Up Nepal, the survey results understandably show that with a few outliers, most people living inside the Ring Road found the air they breathe Bad or Very Bad. Generally, the air was considered to be cleaner the further the respondents lived from the city core. However, the perception of air pollution was worse along busy intersections outside the centre, like Chabahil, Kalanki or Koteswor.
Only along the foothills, in Mata Tirtha, Budanilkantha or Changu Narayan, did people feel the air quality was better. And there was only respondent (in Godavari) among 212 interviewed who considered air quality to be Excellent.
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Asked to answer if air pollution had diminished their quality of life, 99% of respondents said it had. Asked how, most noted respiratory problems, chronic cough, sore throat, asthma attacks, lack of concentration and skin rashes, while other complained of clothes getting dirty. Interestingly, some included foul smell from nearby streams as ‘air pollution’, and said the stench was ‘unbearable’. Some said they did not take morning walks anymore, or venture into the streets during rush hour, and if they did, always wore masks.
“Having fresh air to breathe is a human being’s most basic right and that right has been violated to an unimaginable extent in Kathmandu,” said one Naya Bazar respondent.
Asked what they think are the main sources of air pollution in their area, more than 90% cited road-side dust caused by widening and delayed construction, vehicle pollution and open garbage burning. (see graph) Many noted that open spaces were shrinking, trees were being cut and plastic waste was burnt openly on streets. Outside the Ring Road, many of the complaints were about brick kilns and factories emitting smoke.
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