Pollution

Don’t venture out of homes, use masks if important: Nepal cautions against air pollution

No respite froom air pollution so far; govt had shut educational institutions for five days on March 30

 
By Rajesh Ghimire
Published: Tuesday 06 April 2021
Nepal had shut down all educational institutions for five days due to an alarming rise in air pollution levels. Photo: Rajesh Ghimire

Nearly a week after Nepal shut down all educational institutions for five days due to an alarming rise in air pollution levels, the situation has not improved. Pollution levels spiked on April 5 again, according to experts. With little respite so far, health officials have advised the public against venturing outside their houses except in emergency situations.

Air pollution may cause several health issues including breathing complication, they warned: “In case of an emergency, wear a proper mask while going out.”

Meghnath Dhimal, senior research officer, Nepal Health Research Council, advised the public to use N-95 masks. Irritation in the eyes, throat problems and headaches are common reactions to air pollution.

The scale of indoor pollution has reduced in the last few years while that of outdoor pollution has increased, according to Dhimal. He urged the public to not use motor vehicles except in emergency situations. 

Experts recommended children, pregnant women, people with underlying health conditions and senior citizens to be extra cautious and not to stroll, go on morning walks or engage in outdoor activities.

The air quality of Kathmandu, Nepal, hit hazardous levels on the morning of March 27, 2021, following which the government shut down schools on March 30 for five days.

The environment department immediately released a health advisory, cautioning the elderly and children to stay at home until the situation improved.

Tarkeshwar, a municipality of Kathmandu, banned the use of heavy construction equipment to prevent pollution.

Experts, while speaking to Down to Earth, had attributed forest fires raging across the country as among the reasons for the extremely high pollution. Government agencies reported as many as 2,713 forest fires as on March 30.

Local air pollution also exacerbated the condition, along with the westerly winds that brought dust and pollution from South and South-West India (Rajasthan and Delhi-NCR), climate experts had told DTE earlier.

Ngamindra Dahal, a climate scientist, had said: “I would like to call this situation the new normal. The pattern repeats every two-three years. Winters should end in February and pre-monsoon should start by March. But that is not happening.”

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