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Pollution hits Kathmandu

BY SHANKAR BHANDARI
Kathmandu is one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in South Asia. The Valley is surrounded by hills forming bowl-shaped topography, which restricts wind movement and retains the pollutants in the atmosphere. Simply the component that alters the inherent compositional property of air is termed as air pollutants. It may be natural or anthropogenic. The major air pollutants are nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, ozone, lead, and particulate matter. Particulate matter includes dust, dirt, soot, smoke and liquids droplets. Air pollution has become a serious environmental concern and a public health risk. Most of the people leave their home wearing mask therefore local activist nick-named Katmandu as “Maskmandu”. The latest Global Environmental Performance Index (GEPI) was released by Yale University and Columbia University in collaboration with the world Economic Forum based on 24 indicators across 10 categories, covering environmental health and ecosystem vitality. Nepal is positioned into fifth worst country in the world in restraining air pollution. Kathmandu’s unmanaged road expansion projects and delay in the underground installation of Melamchi Drinking Water pipes in the city are main reasons for ongoing dust pollution.
According to World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, the amount of PM-2.5 should not cross 10 micrograms per cubic meter air, but in Kathmandu valley the maximum permitted level is 80 micrograms per cubic meter air marking Kathmandu as one of the polluted cities. PM 2.5 indicates the matter present in the air that is 2.5 microns or below which can easily enter into our lungs. These particles include dust, coal, particles exited from power plants and home heating, brick kilns and car exhaust. Normal surgical and cloth masks can’t block PM-2.5 from being inhaled. Air pollution causes serious health issues such as heart diseases, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cough and stroke. School children and old aged people are very sensitive to air pollution whereas traffic police, driver, and shopkeeper suffer most from it .Every Individual should frequently check their health and use   N95 type masks that prevent most of the particle to enter in our body. The government’s failure to replace the old and outdated vehicles plying on the roads and unsystematic distribution of green stickers also added air pollution in Kathmandu.
KMC needs to strictly implement the government’s decision of keeping a plastic dustbin inside the vehicle to restrict the passengers from throwing garbage out, the vehicles should be driven with electricity ,two stage combustion should be used to reduce the emission of NO2.Use of filter, improvement in traffic management, dust particulate emitting industries started with electrostatic precipitator, promoting public transport system, plantation of trees along roadside dividers, introduction of electric powered bus service and strictly implementation of emission control law can help in mitigating air pollution. The government should punish the contractors who did not finish the construction on time and reward those who have completed in given time. Ongoing pollution situation can send a negative image of a country  which will affect tourism sector esp. visit Nepal year 2020 therefore government must take it seriously and need to work on it quickly.
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