Air pollution in Kathmandu | Image Source: ICIMOD
Air pollution in Kathmandu | Image Source: ICIMOD

News

Nepal’s air quality shows little signs of improving

By Dibyak Kapali |

Nepal ranks one of the most polluted countries (16th) in 2022 based on an air quality assessment by IQAir — a Swiss air quality tech company. Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India are in the top 10 of the worst air quality list which means that the South Asian countries have a lot to do to improve their air quality.

Back in 2019, Nepal ranked eighth most polluted country. Earlier in 2014, Nepal ranked 10th on the list of the world’s most polluted countries based on the World Health Organization (WHO) data on urban air quality.

In Yale’s Environmental Performance Index for 2016 and 2017, Kathmandu ranked as the third and fifth most polluted city. It charted new heights when it ranked the worst in 2018.

“There’s a level of uncertainty as to whether pollution levels in Nepal are improving, or just fluctuating between similar levels of pollution”, says the assessment.

Numerous factors contribute to the pollution which is mainly concentrated in urban centres where most of the population is concentrated — automobiles that emit large amounts of harmful pollutants from poorly combusted fossil fuels, particularly diesel, nearby industrial operations, haphazard construction activities, household combustion appliances, forest fires, and open burning.

In 2019, 4.2 million premature deaths globally were attributed to outdoor air pollution — 37% died due to ischaemic heart disease and stroke, 18% due to acute lower respiratory infections and 23% due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and 11% to cancer of the respiratory tract.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

In Nepal, air pollution leads to 42,100 deaths every year, out of which 19% are in under five children and about 27% in adults above 70 years of age.

Significant reduction of outdoor air pollution would result from policies and investments that ensure organised construction works, promote clean transportation, energy and housing, and greener industrial activities.

The air quality index (AQI) of Patan and Tulsipur recorded 162 today while that of Bhaktapur and Kathmandu is 161 and 151 respectively.

The Air Quality Index (AQI) reports daily air quality based on six scales from 0 - 500 indicating different levels of health concern:

1. 0 to 50 → Good 

Satisfactory. The extent of pollution poses little or no risk.

2. 51 to 100 → Moderate

Acceptable. Some pollutants may be a moderate health concern for a small number of people. For example, people who are unusually sensitive to ozone may experience respiratory symptoms.

3. 101 to 150 → Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups 

High risk for children, elderly people, and people with lung disease from exposure to ozone whereas people with heart and lung disease, older people, and children from airborne particulates.

4. 151 to 200 → Unhealthy

Adverse health effects for everyone. Members of sensitive groups may experience more serious effects.

5. 201 to 300 → Very Unhealthy

Health alert indicating that everyone may experience more serious health effects.

6. >300 → Hazardous

Health warnings of emergency conditions. The entire population is more likely to be affected.

Dibyak Kapali is a Researcher and Social Media Lead at the_farsight. He is a student of Microbiology.

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