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The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) is deeply concerned about the deteriorating air quality in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal and parts of India. Recent data from our experts reveal hazardous levels of particulate matter (PM), posing a severe risk to human health.
In Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital, PM2.5 levels exceeded 205 µg/m3 on 11 April 2023, with PM10 levels reaching a staggering 430 µg/m3 on 13 April 2023. These alarming data points highlight the urgent need for action to address this critical issue.
Air pollution poses severe threats to human health – contributing to neonatal morbidity, stunting and learning delays in children, and with prolonged exposure linked to respiratory illnesses, heart diseases, and other health complications, especially for vulnerable populations.
“Worldwide, air pollution is responsible for more deaths annually than COVID-19 to date,” says Dr Bhupesh Adhikary, Senior Air Quality Specialist, ICIMOD. “Despite this catastrophic death toll, we aren’t tackling this invisible killer with anything like the same energy. It’s time we put efforts to improve air quality on a war footing. The good news is that we know what is causing air pollution in our region, and how to make rapid progress to reduce our exposure to pollutants. We urge Governments, donors and NGOs to work with us to build a coalition to really drive action on clean air.”
The spike in air pollution in the region is due to increase in forest fires, which are increasing in number and severity due to climate change, and residential biomass burning. As well as the impacts to human health, pollutants cause extensive damage to the region’s rich biodiversity and accelerate climate impacts.
Rising temperatures are causing glaciers in the region to melt at an alarming rate: if global warming exceeds 2°C, it will result in losing 50% of the glaciers in the region, leading to changes in river flows which can have serious consequences for freshwater biodiversity, agriculture, drinking water, and other human needs.
Black carbon or soot emitted from forest fires and burning crop residues after harvest can accelerate the melting of high mountain glaciers, further contributing to their decline.
ICIMOD works with our partners to generate both ground-based observation data and satellite/model-based data on air quality. These evidences are critical for policy formulation and implementation.
Note: Please note that the data points mentioned in this advisory are accurate as of 19 April 2023, and may change based on further updates from ICIMOD’s air pollution experts.
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