No remedy even as Kathmandu air crosses dangerous levels

- ARPAN SHRESTHA, Kathmandu

Dec 25, 2018-

Air quality in Kathmandu Valley deteriorated to ‘hazardous’ and ‘very unhealthy’ levels last week but there has been little or no government action despite a Supreme Court order in January directing authorities to immediately curb air pollution.

The Supreme Court had also ordered effective implementation of the government’s standards of vehicle emissions and ensure air quality standards in the spirit of the constitution. Article 30(1) of the constitution guarantees citizens’ right to live in a clean and healthy environment and Clause (2) stipulates a provision of compensation for harm caused by pollution.

“Kathmandu will get five state-of-the-art broomers within two months after which dust will be history,” Kathmandu Metropolitan City Spokesperson Ishwor Man Dangol said when the Post inquired about dangerous levels of particulate matter pollution.

“Our focus is on mitigating dust. This particulate matter pollution is new to me. We will hold discussion on this in the next board meeting which is a fortnight away.”

In October, mayors of the metropolitan cities and municipalities in the Valley gathered at the Mayors’ Summit on Air pollution and pledged to work together to reduce air pollution but real time air quality data at the Department of Environment’s website is evident that little has been done in that regard.

At ‘very unhealthy’ levels, the Air Quality Index warns that even healthy people will show symptoms and people with respiratory or heart diseases will be significantly affected and will experience reduced endurance in activities.

The index also warns that at ‘hazardous’ levels, even healthy people will show noticeably strong symptoms, increasing vulnerability to other illnesses and recommends that the elderly and the sick remain indoors and avoid exercise. It also warns healthy individuals against outdoor activities.

“The flow in COPD related cases has been steady but people above 40 years of age are more vulnerable,” said senior consultant physician Dr Arpana Neopane.

Vehicular emissions are the primary source of particulate pollution in the Valley. While proposals to revise the Vehicle Pollution Standards remain in the limbo, particulate pollution levels in the Valley continue to peak at toxic levels which prompted governments and mayors elsewhere to take stern actions, including temporary ban on private vehicles and industrial emissions.

In the first three months of this fiscal year, the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division has taken action against 99 vehicle owners in the Valley for violating emission standards.

“Last year, we booked 4,007 vehicles. In most cases, we have discovered that the vehicle owners haven’t renewed both their taxes and the mandatory green stickers, which are proof that the four-wheelers have passed the emission tests,” said Division Spokesperson Jay Raj Sapkota.

“A majority of the vehicles that have been booked are diesel-run large vehicles. People don’t maintain their vehicles after the annual emission test and are a big menace.”

Authorities at the Department of Environment were not available for comment despite repeated calls.

Published: 25-12-2018 06:57

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