First ever air quality monitoring for Chitwan National Park

27 Dec 2015, NTNC Office, Sauraha


The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in collaboration with the National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC) has established the ‘Chitwan National Park Air Quality Observatory’ to monitor air pollution at the periphery of the national park in order to study the impact of air pollution on biodiversity and ecosystems. The station has been installed in the NTNC’s premises in Sauraha and was inaugurate yesterday, 26 December 2015 by the Hon. Agni Prasad Sapkota, Minister of Forests and Soil Conservation.  

Inaugurating the observatory, Minister Sapkota showed keen interest in the Observatory. In his remarks at the NTNC Office, he said that he was pleased with the developments he saw today, despite the current crisis faced by the nation. He stressed that any work on conservation and scientific research, including the data generated from the Air Quality Observatory, must be translated into improved livelihoods for the marginalized and vulnerable, who depend on forest resources. The Minister thanked ICIMOD, the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation and NTNC for installing the station. 

Hon. Agni Prasad Sapkota, Minister of Forests and Soil Conservation with other dignitaries at the inauguration of the Chitwan National Park Air Quality Observatory in Sauraha
Photo credit: Bhaskar Karky/ICIMOD

The Secretary of the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation, Mr Uday Chandra Thakur, said that the Air Quality Observatory “will act as an early warning system” for our environment. He added that air pollution needs to be dealt with across the different ministries and departments as it is a multi-sectoral issue that requires good coordination among stakeholders. He said that he, along with his ministry, is ready to provide any assistance sought from the ministry.

After the inauguration, the Director General of ICIMOD, Dr David Molden, talked about ICIMOD and why it is interested in atmospheric issues in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region. Dr Molden said that “This is the first air quality monitoring station in Chitwan” and highlighted the importance of establishing this station in the national park, which is a World Heritage site. He pointed out that the station will generate useful carbon data for REDD+ and link this data with the impact of air pollution on the ecosystem of the national park. He stressed that open fires and agriculture field burning are some of the main sources of black carbon and interventions can be designed to mitigate these. 

The Director General of the Department of Environment, Dr Jagdish Bhakta Shrestha, thanked ICIMOD and the NTNC for establishing the observatory and emphasized the link between air pollution and climate change. Information on air pollution, such as that generated by the Observatory, will be useful for Nepal to remain on track to achieve the below 2oC commitment made at the CoP 21.

On the occasion, WWF Conservation Director Dr Ghana Gurung said that “such scientific data can be a scientific basis for improving conservation science and the management of the park”. 

Data generated from the observatory will assist Chitwan district in the REDD readiness phase and in improving conservation science for the park and its buffer zone. Chitwan National Park, although renowned for its extraordinary work in the conservation of rare species and involvement of local communities in the management of the park and buffer zone, has not given much attention to the potential threat from air pollution on biodiversity and ecosystems. To date, there is no data quantifying air pollution levels in the district. 

The observatory was set up by ICIMOD and the NTNC under ICIMOD’s REDD and Atmosphere initiatives. The Atmosphere Initiative has been working with the Department of Environment to design the country’s long-term air pollution monitoring network. It has prepared a list of proposed places around Nepal where air quality monitoring stations may be set up. Sites were selected based on a number of criteria including human population, as well as vulnerable ecosystems and heritage. Chitwan National Park was listed as a high priority place for such a station. 

ICIMOD’s REDD Initiative has an agreement with the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation to undertake REDD+ related programmes in Nepal, while the NTNC is mainly working on the environment and biodiversity conservation. NTNC is already partnering with ICIMOD in developing biodiversity monitoring protocols for REDD+ on the basis of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification(UNCCD). 

The data from this observatory will provide baseline information on air quality in the region and contribute to the monitoring of national air quality. 

For more information, please contact: 

Dr Siva Praveen Puppala, Aerosol Scientist, ICIMOD

Dr Bhupesh Adhikary, Air Quality Specialist, ICIMOD

Nira Gurung, Communications Officer, ICIMOD,   
Tel. +977 1 5003222