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Air Pollution in Nepal

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Air Pollution in Nepal
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  Kathmandu University Medical Journal (2003) Vol. 1, No. 4, Issue 4, 231-232   Editorials  Air Pollution in Nepal Joshi SK  1 1 Lecturer, Dept. of Community Medicine, KMCTH T he mad rat race among nations all over the globefor development has jeopardized the human race.Rapid progress in industrialization and mechanizationhas resulted in unlimited exploitation of naturalresources. Thus, air pollution is a gift of industrialcivilization. Lack of development of a culture of air  pollution control has resulted in serious air pollution problems in the developing countries like Nepal. Inour country, outdoor air pollution is a problem in themajor cities like Kathmandu valley.The main sources of air pollution in Kathmandu areindustries and vehicles. Other minor sources aredomestic cooking fuels, refuse burning andresuspended dust particles. A study done by theWorld Bank in 1993 estimated that the contributionof vehicle exhaust to Total Suspended Particulate wasonly 3.5 percent compared to contribution of HimalCement Factory (36%), brick kilns (31%) anddomestic fuel combustion (14%). However, thesituation in Kathmandu is quite different now. HimalCement Factory along with other different industrieshas closed for different reasons and many people useless polluting cooking fuels like kerosene and LPGinstead of biomass. But in the mean time, the number of vehicles in the valley has increased threefold. Theemission from the vehicles has therefore probablyincreased significantly, while emission from other sources has decreased over the past 10 years. As aresult, vehicle is now the number one source of  pollution in Kathmandu. The main reason for thehigh level of vehicular emission is the large number of poorly maintained vehicles on congested streets, poor quality fuels and lubricants, weaknesses in theemission inspection & maintenance system and a poorly managed transportation system.SUMMARYWorld Health Organization (WHO) estimates thatapproximately 3 million people die each year due toair pollution in the world (World Bank 2003, ‘HealthImpacts of Outdoor Air Pollution’. South Asia UrbanAir Quality Management Briefing, paper No. 11).According to the WHO, air pollution is responsiblefor increases in outpatient visits due to respiratoryand cardiovascular diseases, hospital admissions andmortality.The most common route for pollutants to enter thehuman body is by inhalation. So the most commoneffect of air pollution is development of respiratorydiseases. Air pollution can also have adverse impactson other important systems such as cardiovascular system and central nervous system. Studies haveshown that children, elderly and people with lung andheart diseases are more vulnerable to the healtheffects of air pollution. An analysis of hospitalrecords from three major hospitals in Kathmanduindicates that the number of COPD patients admittedto hospitals has increased significantly in the last tenyears. Hospital records indicate that the number of COPD patients is highest in the dry winter monthswhen air pollution in Kathmandu is at its highest peak.Recently, Ministry of Population and Environmenthas established an air quality monitoring system inKathmandu valley consisting of six monitoringstations in Putali Sadak, Patan Hospital, Thamel,Bhaktapur, Kirtipur and Matsyagaon. Thesemonitoring stations automatically collect 24-hour samples of air and the samples are analyzed for PM10. The data being generated from the sixmonitoring stations in Kathmandu gives a fairly good picture of the current status of air quality in thevalley. Analysis of past data available from thosemonitoring stations revealed that Putali Sadak is themost polluted station followed by Patan Hospital,Thamel, Bhaktapur, Kirtipur and Matsyagaon. Theseasonal variation in air pollution is especially highin Bhaktapur. In the two months between November 2002 and January 2003, the PM10 level in Bhaktapur rose by 178 percent. This is mainly due to that mostof the valley’s brick kilns are located aroundBhaktapur and they start operating in November /December. In the mean time, wind in Kathmanduflows east towards Bhaktapur, carrying with it asignificant amount of particles from Kathmandu. Dueto the brick kilns and the westerly winds fromKathmandu, the air quality in Bhaktapur gets verymuch deteriorated in the winter season.Vehicles are the main sources of air pollution inKathmandu as the places with heavy traffic (PutaliSadak and Patan Hospital) are the most polluted andthe pollution levels drop significantly on weekendsand during ‘bandhs’ or strikes when there are fewer vehicles on the road.Reduction of vehicle exhaust emission is the mosteffective measure to improve air quality of the valley.231  Electric vehicles can play an important role inreducing emission loads in Kathmandu. Operating theexisting trolley bus system can save approximatelythree tons of potentially carcinogenic particles from being released into Kathmandu’s air every year. Asdiesel exhaust is very hazardous for human healthand it is the main source of fine particles, dieselvehicles should be avoided to the extent possible.Government should introduce economic tools, suchas fuel tax, to discourage the use of diesel vehicles.Introduction of environment-friendly brick kilns canalso significantly reduce the amount of pollutants indry winter season. Public awareness campaigns arerequired to inform the people about the hazards of air  pollution and what they can do to avoid or minimizeair pollution.232

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