Collaboration Marks Improved Efforts to Combat Kathmandu Valley’s Air Pollution Challenges

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Ratna Park AQM inauguration at Ratna Park, Kathmandu.
Photo: Jitendra Bajracharya/ICIMOD

An event to inaugurate the Ratna Park Air Quality Monitoring (AQM) Station and the US Embassy AQM System was held on 14 March 2017, organized jointly by the Ministry of Population and Environment (MoPE), the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), and the US Embassy in Kathmandu. 

Increasing air pollution in the Kathmandu valley and throughout the country has increased interest among citizens, who have become more conscious about its hazardous effects on health and well-being. Accurate data on air pollution is therefore a prerequisite to improve this understanding. The Department of Environment (DoEnv) together with ICIMOD identified 56 points within Nepal where air quality monitoring stations could be installed. To date, there are AQM stations operating in Kathmandu (Ratna Park), Lumbini, Chitwan, Dhulikhel and Pulchowk, and a high altitude station in Langtang.

The Ratna Park AQM Station was inaugurated by MoPE Secretary, Dr Bishwa Nath Oli, and followed by a formal programme at the US Embassy’s Phora Durbar compound. Secretary Oli and the US Ambassador to Nepal, Ms Alaina B. Teplitz, also initiated an Air Quality Monitoring Portal on US Embassy webpage. Oli and Teplitz also witnessed the signing of EPA-MoPE partnership agreement in the presence of media and significant guests. 

Map showing locations of the stations in Nepal

Speaking to the gathering, Dr Oli described the Government of Nepal’s previous Air Quality Stations that were operational until 2007. ‘We are now setting up new Air Quality Monitoring Stations with support from ICIMOD and the Kathmandu Sustainable Urban Transport project’. 

In addition to the recently installed stations, the Government of Nepal will set up additional stations in Pokhara and Kathmandu by the end of this fiscal year. Real-time data of air pollution is currently available to the public at www.pollution.ov.np

‘MoPE and DoEnv are continuously working to decrease environmental pollution and… in the course of finalizing the National Pollution Control Strategy and Action Plan,’ Oli said.  ‘As well, a detailed Air Quality Management Action Plan for Kathmandu Valley is being worked out, especially to address air quality problems.’

Director General of ICIMOD, Dr David Molden delivering his remarks at the US Embassy, Phora Durbar, in Kathmandu.
Photo: Jitendra Bajracharya/ICIMOD

At the formal programme in Phora Durbar, David Molden, Director General for ICIMOD, told the audience, ‘This new network would provide real-time data freely and openly to the public’.

The old monitoring network that ran in Kathmandu until a decade ago provided 24-hour average values of coarse particles (PM10) with a time lag of many days. The new network measures fine particles (PM2.5) and gases such as ozone, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and others in real time. The stations are also equipped to measure meteorological variables. 

‘From today onwards the Kathmandu public will be guaranteed access to air quality data. If the DoEnv server is down then they can get it from the US Embassy website and vice versa’, said Molden. Molden added that the air quality data opens the door to important responses to air pollution: the public can make informed choices about reducing exposure. The data also provides a basis for building emergency responses to episodes of bad air pollution, and helps improve design for better mitigation efforts overall.

MoPE Secretary, Dr Biswa Nath Oli unveils the inauguration plaque for the Ratna Park AQM on 14 March 2017.
Photo: Jitendra Bajracharya/ICIMOD

Describing the air pollution as an important risk factor for disease, Ambassador Teplitz cited air quality as an important component for economic prosperity. She explained about US-Nepal partnership and said that they are now moving their partnership from land and water into the air. 

Two AQM systems in Nepal – within the US Embassy’s premises in Durbar Marg and Maharajgunj – have been installed by the US government with support from partners, including ICIMOD. 

Officials from MoPE/ DoEnv, US Embassy, ICIMOD, Asian Development Bank (ADB), and World Bank were present at the programme, along with representatives of various media outlets.