Sunday, July 16, 2017

Kathmandu: One of the Worst 10 Polluted Cities of the World

Dr Rabin Man Shakya

Portland, where I have been living for several years  is not an ideal city as far as pollution is concerned, but still it is a great and green city and no comparison with Kathmandu, which is gaining notoriety as one of the 10 most polluted cities in the world.



 Very recently, my son Ranjan was in Kathmandu and Pokhara. Also, one of my American friends Chris Jentz, was in Nepal for a couple of weeks. Luckily, nothing happened to them and they got back to the U.S. without any health problems. But, when some Nepalese living in America go to Nepal, some of them catch diarrhea, stomach problems and other health issues because of deteriorating pollution and water. 

Chris was not very happy about the worsening environmental condition of Kathmandu. "Pollution is the number one problem in Kathmandu", Chris told me, adding that the city is very crowded and smoky. "The air that people of Kathmandu breathe and the water they drink are making them sick," said another Oregonian, who also was in Nepal recently. 

Here in America, Nepal evokes images of a pristine Himalayan country on top of the world. But that image is slowly fading away from the minds of the people because of facts and figures related to pollution in Kathmandu. Many Oregonians and Portlanders who I know have been to Nepal, while they like the natural beauty, Himalayas, arts, culture and architecture of the Kathmandu valley, they also complain that the main problem with Kathmandu is the dirt and the dust. During their stay in Kathmandu, they frequently complained of sore throats and itchy eyes within a few days of arrival in the temple city. 

Kathmandu is a major tourism, business and commercial center of Nepal, a major destination for passenger busses and freight trucks. Its hilly geography acts as a mixing bowl that traps the dangerous compounds emitted by construction, vehicles and industry. 




According to the latest report, Kathmandu is the seventh worst polluted city in the world, followed by Kabul, Accra (Ghana), Tetovo (Macedonia), Faridabad, Cairo, Dhaka, the other three worst hit polluted cities are Ulanbatour, Karachi, and Ghaziabad. 

Kathmandu's pollution index stands at 98.73%, whereas Kabul is at 102.61%, Cairo at 96.28% and Dhaka at 95.81%. 

Fine particles emitted by vehicles (especially diesel powered ones), dust and dirt from road construction, building of homes can penetrate deep into the lungs, according to doctors. 

The people of Kathmandu have been fighting an uphill battle against the deteriorating environment of Kathmandu, perhaps never to win. 

Lots of people, motorcycles, cars, trucks, busses, contribute to local air pollution. It is to be noted that the population of Nepal is about 2 million. Kathmandu is probably the only city in the world where the people walk on the streets together with cars, motorcycles, stray cows and dogs. In the past ten years, the number of vehicles on the streets has risen about three-fold. Like-wise, in the past two decades the number of vehicles on Kathmandu's streets has risen ten-fold, which is very alarming for a city having very narrow roads. 




The Kathmandu metropolitan area has air quality challenges, not just with well-known air pollutants such as carbon monoxide, but with a host of other less known air toxics too. It is to be noted that Kathmandu was in socio-economic and political turmoil for the last two decades as the metropolitan city did not have any elected mayor for the last twenty years. 

Needless to say that the future of Kathmandu depends on the clean air and better environmental conditions. Hopefully, the newly elected mayor and his team will work hard to make Kathmandu less polluted. 

The fight for Kathmandu's better environment, however,  must not be confined to the responsibility of the mayor and Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) alone, it is also the overall responsibility of the government and major political parties of Nepal to make Kathmandu better again by enforcing and enacting tough laws and rules  to make Kathmandu less polluted. Despite the fact that there  has been a lot of hue and cry about the pollution in Kathmandu, unless some tough and strict legal steps are not enforced, the problem of pollution will not be solved.


(All the photos used in this article are by Ranjan Man Shakya who was in Nepal not long ago.)

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Yet Another Epitome of Concocted News Story

Rabin Man Shakya

Journalists and mass media should always disseminate factual information for the protection and promotion of citizen's fundamental rights and the freedom of expression and opinion. Journalists and mass media should engage in objective, fair, decent and trustworthy journalism. Remaining firm to the principle of objectivity, journalists and mass media should disseminate factual news and balanced opinion.

These are just some of the excerpts from the Journalists Code of Conduct 2016 formulated by Nepal Press Council.

But as a matter of fact, code of conduct for journalists formulated by the Nepal Press Council has always been a showpiece only. Nepal's journalists have published biased, one-sided and concocted news stories numerous times. Many journalists in Nepal do not care about the ethical requirements while doing journalistic assignment.

Kantipur's journalist Ujir Magar  was colluding with the then banned Maoist Communist Party when he totally fabricated "a field reporting" about a jail break by the Maoist insurgents by digging the tunnel at a prison in Gorkha. Even though it was a field reporting, the journalist never went to Gorkha for collecting information about the jail break and made up all the story materials in Kathmandu.

The news story was published in the Kantipur as per a planned propaganda or strategy, Magar has conceded, according to media reports.

The jailbreak news story appeared in the Kantipur newspaper 16 years ago under the byline of Ujir Magar and dateline of Gorkha. This is simply bizarre,  simply unacceptable and outrageous.

Ujir Magar has conceded -- the jailbreak news in Gorkha was a fake and concocted story -- in a book "Ansha" which was released recently in Kathmandu amidst a function by former prime minister and Maoist leader Prachannda.

The jailbreak took place during the insurgency period. Well, that was the time when Nepal was descending into a maelstrom of political violence perpetrated by the government side as well as the Maoist insurgents. The question arises: Why did the Maoists use the newspaper and the reporter for publishing concocted story ?

It looks like there is the freedom  of spinning the yarns and concocting the stories, and the most interesting part is that neither the reporters nor the newspapers ever asked for apology or even a correction for committing journalistic misdemeanour.

Magar's conceding of concocted news story touched a raw nerve because it combined simmering concern over media ethics with wider fears of journalism's connection and affiliation with the Nepalese political parties.

Historical experience shows that the ethical errors were made by a startling array of Nepalese journalists on numerous occasions and no sorry, no apology, no correction. Why ?

The revelation of these kind of fake and concocted news stories has raised questions about the credibility of the Nepalese journalism. This is not the first example of concocted stories in the Kantipur. It is to be noted that fabricated and concocted news stories have been published in the Kantipur a number of times.