Kathmandu [Nepal], March 30 (ANI): For the last one week, the air quality of Kathmandu has deteriorated and the Himalayan nation's capital has remained in the list of the top ten most polluted cities in the world, as per the report by IQAir, a Swiss air quality tech company.
Kathmandu's air quality remained unhealthy throughout Wednesday with pollution levels peaking in the morning and evening pushing up the ranking of most polluted cities. As per Wednesday evening (7 pm Local Time) air quality index by IQAir, Kathmandu stands fifth in terms of polluted cities with US AQI at 155.
As per the United States Environment Protection Agency's air quality index, when air pollutant PM 2.5 reaches 151 to 200 mg/m3, air quality is considered unhealthy; everyone may experience problems, with sensitive groups feeling more severe effects. When it exceeds 300 mg/m3, it is considered "hazardous" for everyone and may prompt emergency condition alerts.
Throughout the day, Kathmandu was shrouded by thick polluted haze which covered the bowl-shaped valley hampering the flights and daily activities.
"We use to get a clearer view of Kathmandu Valley from the top of Swayambhunath Stupa but now it is all covered by dense haze reducing the visibility. The government should work on some plans to control the pollution measures which have been hampering the daily lives," SuyogBasnet, one of the residents of Kathmandu told ANI.
The drop in the visibility due to the increased pollution level also impacted the operation of the airport in Kathmandu in the early hours of Wednesday as visibility there dropped to 2000 meters.
"Both domestic and international flight services have continued to remain affected due to the haze. The flight services have been affected as a minimum of 2,800 meters' visibility is necessary for landings and take-offs, this has continued for some days now," said TeknathSitaula, the spokesperson of the Tribhuwan International Airport (TIA).
The bowl-shaped valley which also is densely populated hasn't received precipitation for weeks letting pollutants remain afloat in the atmosphere which has dropped the air quality.
Though meteorologists have been issuing warnings of lightning and rainfalls in some places of Province-1, Bagmati and Gandaki amongst others the weather is still to remain clear due to the absence of a system in place currently to cause heavy rainfall or strong wind to blow away pollutants in the air.
"If we take the reference of a lately published list of world's polluted cities then Kathmandu ranks on top ten polluted cities. At an earlier time when I use to come here, I could see a scenic and clear view of Kathmandu, the lately constructed Dharahara also is not visible from here it is all result of the pollution. As a lot of people are coming forward to contest for the post of mayor, none of them has thought about doing something or committing to control this pollution," another resident Adesh Kumar Shahi told ANI as he stood atop Swayambhunath Stupa, the UNESCO World Heritage Site overlooking Kathmandu Valley.
Doctors have warned poor air quality causes short- and long-term effects on public health with chances of pneumonia, bronchitis, conjunctivitis, skin allergy, stroke and heart problems, among others, in the short term, and ulcers and cancer of the lungs and intestine, kidney disease and heart problems in the long-run.
Nepal usually witnesses the pollution level surging high in the dry months ranging from March to May when forest fire is more common. As rain remains off the sky failing to wash out all the pollutants, the atmosphere gets surrounded by pollution dipping the air quality index.
According to Sundar Sharma, Under Secretary at the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority (NDRRMA), there are currently 19 forest fires in nine districts including Bara, Chitwan, Humla, Parsa, Kalikot, Kanchanpur, Kailali and Rautahat. These big forest fires are the cause of increased pollution levels and low visibility across the country.
"The smoke we have been seeing for the past few days over the sky of Nepal is caused by the forest fires. There is no way for them to get cleared without rainfall as the smoke will stay in the sky for at least five-six days," Sharma said. Further warning that the peak fire season would start in the fourth week of April and end in May for Nepal.
As per the experts smoke emitted from the burning of forests will move to India and come to Nepal from India. Currently, there are big wildfires in India as well, so the smoke travels to Nepal from India.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines air pollution as contamination of the indoor or outdoor environment by any chemical, physical, or biological agent that modifies the natural characteristics of the atmosphere. Common sources of air pollution are household combustion devices, motor vehicles, industrial facilities, and forest fires. (ANI)