The Kathmandu Valley has of late become one of the most polluted capital cities of the world, thanks to deterioration in its air quality over the last couple of months. The situation has worsened due to the dust particles carried by the wind coming from the Thar desert in India. A recent report has termed the city the most polluted one as heavy dust particles and smokes engulfed the valley, known for its lush beautiful hills, plethora of temples, stupas and monasteries. The smog and dust particles have created a haze in the city sky, forcing the authority to divert many international flights to other destinations and to ask the residents not to venture out of houses unnecessarily.
The rising level of pollution caused by unhealthy emission from a growing number of vehicles, dust particles from under-construction infrastructures and smog emitting from forest fires of the surrounding areas have turned the air quality index in the city to a dangerous level. The AQI level the other day reached 470 at Bhainsepati of Lalitpur, 305 in Bhaktapur, and 248 in Simara of Bara. According to the Kathmandu Valley Air Quality Action Plan, the AQI level will become critical if it crosses 300. The latest situation is enough to tell us that the air quality in the Kathmandu Valley, which appears like a bowl, is at an alarming level which can invite many health problems to its residents.
The same situation can bring a bad repute to the capital city and to the government for its abject failure in controlling pollution level in the city where rapid urbanisation has posed another quandary to it. Though our government has in the past introduced various measures to curb rising level of pollution in the city, such measures, however, failed to produce desired results mainly due to the authorities’ lackluster response. The measure to phase out older vehicles has not yet hit the target. The ways to control emission from vehicles has gone awry. More vehicles ply on the streets of the valley, turning it a pollution bowl. In the meantime, the authority has also failed to streamline the construction of infrastructures such as roads, bridges and buildings within the deadline, giving rise to dust in Kathmandu’s air.
Likewise, the authority has failed to control the forest fires that always erupt during the dry seasons such as the present one. During the dry season, Nepal’s forests are most vulnerable to catching fires. People are also careless about protecting forests which is why fires keep gutting our forests. While fires burn our vital forest resources, the same turns the surrounding areas into a hazy place. The mingling of smog with dust particles becomes a potent recipe that pose a threat to the people’s health.
The bad air quality has been a talk in the country for long. Many international agencies have raised their finger towards our authority’s inability to control pollution. Our government must now act swiftly to work with concerned bodies, not only to phase out growing number outdated vehicles from the valley but also to monitor its departments to complete all under construction infrastructure within the deadline. Also, it should take a close eye on the culprits behind forest fires and should be swift to douse forest fires to save the cities and towns from turning into heavily polluted areas.