Govt considers installation of air quality monitoring stations

- PRAGATI SHAHI, Kathmandu
Govt considers installation of air quality monitoring stations

Dec 1, 2014-

Amid growing public concern over air pollution, the government has rekindled its plan to install air quality monitoring stations across the country to assess the extent of pollution and its impact on public health.

The Department of Environment under the Ministry of Science Technology and Environment (MoSTE) has formed a committee to conduct a baseline study to determine the number of stations required and suitable sites—in cities, heritage sites and trans-boundary locations—for the purpose.

The installation of air quality monitoring stations has been planned to measure the extent of air pollutants contributing to poor air quality, causes of air pollution and its impact on public health. That would help the concerned authorities to initiate measures to control the deteriorating air quality of a particular place, said Suraj Pokharel, director general at the department.

Lack of proper knowledge and research on the status of air pollutants and their sources is one of the biggest challenges facing us, said Pokharel. “There has not been a proper baseline study on status of air quality of Kathmandu Valley. We are clueless about the origin of dust and harmful air pollutants and measures needed to be taken to mitigate the impact they would have on the public health,” he added.

Similarly, the DoE has already decided to bring the existing but non-functional air quality monitoring stations back into operation and provide real-time information on pollution, especially the level of nine toxic air pollutants that are considered to be hazardous to the public health, such as rise in respiratory diseases, eye problem, heart ailments, skin diseases and even cancers.

The six monitoring stations installed in different parts of the Valley in 2000 have been dysfunctional since 2007.

“The existing equipment are outdated and need to be replaced soon to monitor the air quality in the Valley,” Pokharel said.

The National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) 2012 requires effective monitoring and collection of eight-hour and 24-hour samples of air pollutants like Total Suspended Particulates (TSP), Particulate Matter (PM10 and PM2.5), carbon monoxide, lead and ozone levels for at least 347 days in a year. However, it remains unimplemented in the absence of monitoring stations.

A latest survey conducted by the Nepal Health Research Council (NHRC) in the Valley revealed dust particles less than 2.5 micrometre, that enters directly into the lungs, are found to have increased during 5 am and spike around 9 am. The finding has raised alarm bells amongst people going for morning and evening walk in an effort to keep themselves fit.  

Going out for a stroll in the mornings and evenings is considered fatal as the Valley air possesses high level of toxic particles, especially PM 2.5, which was measured in 28 microgram per cubic metre compared to the national standard of 20 microgram per cubic metre.

“Improving air quality of Kathmandu Valley along with other parts of the country is our top priority. We hope the installation of the adequate number of monitoring stations will give us a clear picture on the status of air pollutants. That will help recommend appropriate control measures to improve the air quality,” said Pokharel.

Published: 02-12-2014 09:49

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