Air Pollution Taking Toll On Public Health

Manjima Dhakal

 

‘Air Pollution is not a joke, it will make you choke.’ This popular saying about air pollution makes us to realise its hazard. Air pollution has emerged as a major environmental concern of Nepal. The theme of the World Environment Day 2019 on Wednesday is Air Pollution, and the slogan is designed as clean air for healthy life. As Nepal has been facing huge challenges of air pollution, the slogan seems as if it has targeted the case of Nepal.
According to the Environmental Performance Index 2018, Nepal is among the bottom five countries ranking 176th in the Index. The ranking puts Nepal in the bottom list for environmental performance out of 180 countries. Nepal has performed poorly on air quality, environmental health and water and sanitation. It also revealed that Nepal’s air quality was reported as the worst in South Asia. The problems of air pollution are more severe in the urban areas, especially in the Kathmandu valley.
Increasing air pollution leads to serious environmental health risks. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says most of air pollution-related deaths are from non-communicable diseases like lung cancer and chronic respiratory diseases. As well as the physical risks air pollution also affects the mental health of people.
The public has felt some change in the situation of air pollution in recent months, thanks to the government initiative. The government has been working to control air pollution by blacktopping roads, adding greenery on road sides and using broomer equipment to collect dust.manjima
Environmentalist Bhusan Tuladhar, who is the chairman of Clean Energy Nepal (CEN) said though dust pollution has been controlled to visible extent after the steps taken by municipal authorities, smoke and fume pollution remains the same. Smoke pollution is not visible to the naked eye but it is even more dangerous than the dust. “Though, few steps have been taken to control dust pollution, no steps have been taken to control smoke pollution”, he said.
Now, the government authorities must focus to control smoke polluting the air. Only dust control cannot minimise health hazards caused by overall air pollution, Tuladhar said.
“The country has vehicle emission test policy, but it is not in implementation. We have sufficient policy for clean environment. But, the problem is the lacks of implementation, Tuladhar said.”
The government has purchased 40 vehicle emission testing machines for the purpose. And it planned to enforce the green sticker rule.
In addition to vehicular emissions, other factors including waste burning, smoke from brick kilns and cooking with biomass are also contributing in air pollution.
“We are inviting tourists for Visit Nepal 2020. But, Lumbini area, one of the important tourist destinations, is highly polluted. This sacred place is surrounded by 12 cement factories and 300 brick kilns. If the government doesn’t act to mitigate such pollution, it would create hazards in the prosperity of the nation as well,” Tuladhar said.
It is a positive thing that the government has decided to promote and introduce electric vehicles. If we can increase the use of such vehicles and reduce the number of vehicles that emit smoke, it could minimise air pollution as well as save money spent to import petroleum fuels.
Rural kitchens that cook with biomass fuel, are also polluting households and the environment. Such pollution is dangerous for housewives in rural areas who are exclusively assigned to work in the kitchen. The government has planned to install improved cook stoves in households by 2022 but the implementation of the plan is not satisfactory. 

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