Anjana, higher secondary school student, is on rush today as well. Along with her regular school uniform, she never forgets to put on the mask. ‘It’s very common for me. I might forget my notes or other things. But mask is always with me’, says Anjana. Manoj, who came all from Chitwan for medical preparation, is also seen wearing mask in his everyday walk. `The pollution level is simply intolerable. No trees. No greenaries. Its so dull here’, claims Manoj.
While I was having sip of tea, street vendors nayan was sharing with me similar ill fate stories. ‘What we are supposed to do. Air pollution never seems to stop.’ Dusting off my bags I replied ‘let’s just hope for betterment’. A causal smile and I hurriedly went for my ritual humdrum city life. Of course putting the mask on.
What’s common between Anjana, Manoj, Nayan and me amid our different lifestyle choices, is we have to equally face the air pollution, it’s aftermath and acclimatise ourselves to negatively changing environment.
According to medical doctor and epidemiologist (MD-PhD) by training, Dr Carlos Dora, Air pollution kills double the number of people than tobacco kills. As per the latest WHO analysis, 36 deaths out of 100,000 is from ambient air pollution. While this might not come as a surprise to city denizens, the staggering number of preventable death from Air pollution is somethings to ponder.
To make conditions go from bad to worst in damaging reputation of the city, Kathmandu has been ranked the third position of the pollution ranking with a pollution index of 96.66 according to website numbeo.com. Kathmandu air contains 400 micrograms of particulate matter up to 10 micrometres in size per cubic metre or the PM10 is 400µg/m3 (Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, 2014) which is way too much greater than the maximum limit 120µg/m3 for PM10 set by the National Ambient Air Quality Standards . Kathmandu air contains 260 micrograms of particles smaller than 2.5 micrometres in size per cubic metre or the PM2.5 is 260µg/m3 against maximum limit of 40µg/m3 (Clean Energy Nepal, 2014). These findings justifies general terror faced by commoner.
According to Yale’s 2014 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) Nepal’s air quality ranks 177th out of 178 Countries only outsmart by our another SAARC fellow Bangladesh. No wonder hospital sees surge in inflow of patients from respiratory alignment.
Air pollution is De Facto major problem that needs to be tackled if our Nation wants to repaint the tarnished image of Nepal as pristine country. While finding out solutions, it’s very essential that we explore major cause of urban air pollution in Kathmandu and why it’s still sustaining.
CAUSES :The old vehicles, in-dire-need-of-repairment vehicles are what causing ambient air pollution in Kathmandu. The major culprit includes suspended particle along with dust and smoke from these vehicles. We have tendency not to repair our vehicles, provide care aptly required and replace on time. This lethargic behaviour is hitting us back, making our life more cumbersome. City has seen rise in number of vehicles by three fold in just a decade. This tells volume of stories. Being a valley, where hills and mountain inhibit air movement, persistent photochemical smogs are likely to prevail.
What can we do?
With not much efforts being done to mitigate air pollution, there’s plenty of room where we can initiate new strategies to check severe issues.
Policy reformation, regulations and revision along with better implementation of already existing laws is very crucial. Tighter policy regarding Pollution Control should be developed and amicable environment for its implementation should be created. Better urban planning is equally vital. Economist, urban planner and environmentalist should all collaborate and come under same stage to solve such challenging issues.
Plantation of Trees and making cities green are obvious solutions in mitigating air pollution. Both indoor plantation and outdoor should be encouraged. Avenue planting, green parks, Rooftop farming, boulevards, etc should be developed. This not only enhance air quality but also adds in aesthetic values.
Ban on old vehicles and those that emit more exhaust should be done. Scheme for adopting new and more energy efficient vehicles should be developed. Green sticker or pollution sticker can be used to tag different vehicles based on their performances. Electric vehicles, solar powered vehicles should be encouraged to use.
And What YOU can really do?
Develop habit of using public vehicles, carpooling, walking and cycling on short distant instead of using vehicles can be very effective. Get yourselves indoor plants like Sansverria that absorbs pollutants and provide clean air to breathe.
If educated citizen start considering Clean Air as a basic rights, then it will compel policy maker to take air pollution more seriously even in their environment impact assessment. For those who are aware of the issues, share the message and information, positive benefits of Clean Air.
Controlling pollution is both duty and right of every citizens. Both policy maker and city denizen should shoulder each other, make a common ground of understanding and prepare for more sustainable and healthier future. This way very soon when I am taking the sip of tea at Nayan dai Place, I would see Anjana discarding her mask and Manoj start loving the city.
We know, Air Pollution :It’s our issue.