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.)

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