Kathmandu's poor air quality

Published: Saturday 31 May 2003

Real face of Kathmandu (Credit: Amit Shanker / CSE)nepal has finally disclosed details about the air quality of its capital city, Kathmandu. Not surprisingly, the facts are worrisome. They also have wider ramifications for Nepal, which is an important international tourist centre. The data shows that air in the valley is mainly polluted by two sources: the 1,50,000 vehicles plying on the city roads and the smoke-belching brick kilns.

The ministry of population and environment made the information public in the last week of April. The air quality monitoring was done during the period between April 20-26 in six stations spread over residential, tourist, urban and valley areas of the city. Though data was recorded for oxides of sulphur and nitrogen as well as for particulate matter (pm) less than 2.5 microns, the government has revealed figures of particulate matter of 10 microns only.

Urban areas of the capital such as Lalitpur and Bhaktapur have the worst air quality, since the presence of pm is significantly higher than the proposed national standard of 120 microgrammes per cubic metre (g/cum). In all the six monitoring stations the pm level exceeded the stipulated limit by an average of 100 g/cum.

Although the area around the Bhaktapur monitoring station has very little vehicular movement, the pm 10 level is still unacceptably high. This is in all probability due to brick kilns operating in the locality, and the western winds which carry pollution from Kathmandu and Lalitpur towards Bhaktapur. The capital city has an estimated 125 brick kilns out of which 90 are functioning on old technology. In 1996, the World Bank reported that these kilns are responsible for 31 per cent of the total suspended particles and 28 per cent of pm10 in the air.

Meanwhile, the Federation of Nepalese Transport Entrepreneurs (fnte) has made an unusual demand for a moratorium on the import of vehicles to the valley. According to fnte, unregulated inflow would clog the traffic and lead to more pollution.

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