Kathmandu’s air quality the worst in the world

Air Pollution - non-communicable disease - air quality
Kathmandu’s AQI, as of 8am, on Monday, January 4, 2021, was at 487. Photo: Aryan Dhimal/Onlinekhabar

Kathmandu, January 5

Netizens, especially pedestrians and two-wheel riders, of Kathmandu on Monday were complaining about a burning sensation in their eyes. Initially, the public related the burning sensation to the lighting of firewood. However, soon pictures of Kathmandu’s air-quality index (AQI) went viral. The index painted a glum picture of Kathmandu’s air quality which at 450, which was 15 times over the WHO standard (30).

According to Rishi Ram Sharma, a senior meteorologist, the increase in air pollution in Kathmandu was due to the impact of westerly winds that had dropped the valley’s temperature.  His views were seconded by figures released by the Department of Environment, which showed that the AQI on Monday was double of what it was on Sunday, making Kathmandu the world’s most polluted city.

According to IQ Air, a Swiss air quality technology company, Kathmandu’s AQI, as of 8 am on Monday, was at 487. This was almost double of second and third-place cities, namely Bishkek of Kyrgyzstan and Hanoi of Vietnam, with the figures of 296 and 241 respectively. Experts have warned that this could have a lasting effect on public health.

They argue that the government should declare a public health emergency in the same manner New Delhi had little over a year ago. The Air Quality Management Action Plan approved by the cabinet last year has given the government permission to declare a health emergency if the AQI exceeds 300. This means the government can close factories, stop people from burning things and if need be, control the number of vehicles on the road.

The government, however, is yet to address the issue. “The government has turned a blind eye to this issue,” says environmentalist Bhushan Tuladhar. “The air quality is so bad. The least they could have done is informing the public about it.”

Various studies state that air pollution also has a negative impact on those diagnosed with Covid-19. Infectious disease specialist Dr Sher Bahadur Pun says as the respiratory system takes a hit due to Covid-19, air pollution makes it harder for the patients to recover quickly.

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