Dispelling Air Pollution Myths in Kathmandu

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ICIMOD Senior Air Quality Specialist, Dr Prakash Bhave presenting about the reality of air quality in Kathmandu during a press meet.
Photo: Subasana Shrestha/ICIMOD

People in the region have taken a great interest in air pollution. The risks of air pollution affecting people may be the main reason for this increase in interest about air pollution in Kathmandu and the country at large. 

Because of numbeo.com’s recent ranking of polluted cities in the world, Kathmandu was announced as the third most polluted city. The Clean Energy Nepal (CEN), Clean Air Network Nepal (CANN), Nepal Forum of Environmental Journalists (NEFEJ) and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) addressed the issue at the press meeting ‘Air Pollution in Kathmandu Valley- Myth and Truth’ 6 June 2016. The meeting was held at the offices of Nepal Forum of Environmental Journalists (NEFEJ) in Bhanimandal, Lalitpur. 

The programme brought together media representatives to initiate policy dialogue, and share facts about air quality in Kathmandu valley. 

Prakash Bhave, Senior Air Quality Specialist at ICIMOD talked about fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and said recent media attention was due to the air’s negative impact on health.

‘Approximately seven million people die each year due to breathing fine particulate matter and it is the number one preventable cause of death right now’, Dr Bhave said. He clarified the Numbeo ranking was based on average people answering eight survey questions. Only about 70 people had responded at the time of the meeting. Results were based on perception of pollution with aggregation of many factors but not on scientific measurements and data about air pollution. The pollution index shown in ‘Breathing in Dirty Air’ on the website is the sum of different types of pollution and is misleading as it’s based on perceptions, not measurements. 

Slide showing the list of questions of the survey done by numbeo.com
Source: Prakash Bhave’s presentation- ‘Air Pollution in Kathmandu Valley- Myth and Truth’

Dr Bhave confirmed Kathmandu ranks 261 on global database of 2,973 cities according to the WHO Global Urban Ambient Air Pollution Database (2016). 

He also took the opportunity to acknowledge media in Kathmandu for raising public awareness about air pollution problem. 

During the event Rajan Thapa of Clean Energy Nepal (CEN)/ Clean Air Network Nepal (CANN) presented ‘Air Quality Policies in Nepal’. Thapa suggested there was a vast room for improving policy and environmental regulation through better policy formulation and revision processes; revising and formulating national legislations; and by improving implementation practices, especially in part of governance and coordination. Establishing an effective monitoring system could also bring about immediate improvement in policy and existing regulations. 

Dr Ram Narayan Shah, Pulmonologist for Madyapur Hospital Pvt. Ltd. gave a brief talk on ‘Impact of air pollution in Human Health’. 

‘The immunity system of these groups is not as strong as that of young people so they are more vulnerable’ Dr Shah said. The number of patients with upper respiratory tract infections is on rise  recently. ‘People of old age and children are most vulnerable to problems associated with air pollution’. 

The event provided reporters with an opportunity to interact with experts to understand various aspects of air pollution that are important for accurate reporting.  This event is expected to decrease misleading headlines that misinform the public and propagate myths. Around 35 participants from different media attended the programme.

A number of articles were covered in different media outlets and a brief analysis of the coverage was done by ICIMOD staffs to identify key highlights useful in communicating with media on air pollution in particular. 

For more information contact

Subasana Shrestha, ICIMOD

Email: Subasana.Shrestha@icimod.org

List of coverage as a result of the press meet: 

  1. Chest patients to double in thirteen years
  2. अब ५६ स्थानमा प्रदूषण मापन केन्द्र  
  3. फोहोर बाल्दा उच्च वायु प्रदूषण  
  4. Aankhi Jhyal (NEFEJ) program
  5. Motorbike Fashion; a trend vs. Need
  6. Local pollutants blamed for Himalayan climate change