Kathmandu, April 17, 2016
When I first arrived, the plane windows told me a lie, a very gross lie at that, as we landed between the mountains in Tribhuwan Airport surrounded mountains slowly evaporated. At the airport the distance was blurred by some haze, I thought maybe it was too cold. So I checked the temperature, it was around 28 degrees Celsius, so no chance of smoke and it was 2:00 pm local tome. As I got into the city, something became even more ominous, the sight of almost fifty percent of the population wearing mask told me that something was definitely wrong here. The streets were dusty and the river Bishnumati that runs through the city, which was fabled to carry gold was running pitch black with smelly sewer water.
The next morning I walked to my office from New Baneswor area at around 9:00 am. Even then in the New Baneswor area with three parallel lanes, hundreds of motorbikes, three wheeled tempos and buses were making it impossible to cross the street. And over â€“ head the looming sign of no horizon but a smog hans even when I return.
So I asked to the people around, and everyone told me that the pollution got worse after the earthquake, and it was mainly the dust. Yes, dust did cover everything and you have to clean your nose filled with black mucus everyday even if you wear a mask but the most important thing was not the dust but the pollution emitted by vehicles.
In an environmental performance index published by Yale University in 2014, Nepal enlisted itself as the most polluted country right next to Bangladesh. The Clean Air Nepal (CAN) in a report mentions that Kathmandu has the type of air pollution that is up to sixteen times that of WHO safe upper limit. While the staggering 25 percent of the pollution does come from suspended dust and another 38 percent comes from vehicles.
The report concluded that the demographic of the region surrounded by large mountains makes the Kathmandu valley especially vulnerable to suspended dust and pollution, especially during the winter season and the two & three wheelers running on petrol pose a dangerous threat to the city dwellers.
Many are in the hospitals suffering from acute bronchitis, asthma and even cancer in some cases. Steady rise in pulmonary disease patients also is a sign that the air pollution is costing lives. If Kathmandu does not change its lifestyle soon for better, it might soon become an unlivable city. Meanwhile there is still a hope since many organizations are working on taking the situation under control. Bicycling as a hobby is slowly becoming a â€œthingâ€, the government has implemented taxes on oil.
Slowly many youth organizations are also getting involved in awareness programmes. May Kathmandu be reinstated as the city of pristine mountains and clean air soon.
Image source: Clean Air Network Nepal
By Sarker Shams Bin SharifÂ