Atmospheric Watch Initiative


The atmospheric watch initiative comprises of 6 activities.


1. Emissions

Improving understanding of emissions of air pollutants within and upwind of the HKH region
  • Achieved improved understanding of the socioeconomic processes that lead to emissions and of the chemical composition of emissions from different sources; currently developing and improving emission inventories relevant to the HKH
  •  Collaborated with researchers and partners from the US to quantify emissions from brick kilns, cook stoves, garbage fires, agricultural open burning, and diesel pumps and generators
  •  Currently developing an improved gridded emissions inventory
  •  Conducted studies to improve understanding of the causes and drivers of the recent increase in the practice of setting fields on fire to get rid of agricultural residue

2. Atmosphere Processes

Improving understanding of atmosphere processes and change
  • Monitoring atmospheric composition and meteorology to detect changes, as well as improve understanding of physical and chemical processes of pollutants’ atmospheric transport, transformations, and removal through the following:
  1. – in situ long-term monitoring stations
  2. – coordinated multi-country field campaigns
  3. – computer modelling and satellite data analysis
  • Monitoring through 13 observatories and air quality stations in Nepal, Bhutan, and Pakistan
  • Installed air quality monitoring stations at altitudes ranging from 100 to 4,900 masl in Nepal (Chitwan, Lumbini, Ratnapark, Pulchowk, Langtang, and Dhulikhel); 200 to 4,100 masl in Bhutan (Gedu, Thimphu, Phuentsholing, Chele la, and Pasakha); and one station in Lahore, Pakistan at 215 masl. The Government of Nepal continues to invest in instruments and containers for air quality monitoring stations, setting up new stations in Kathmandu Valley and across Nepal.

3. Impacts

Improving understanding of impacts of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) and atmospheric change on the cryosphere, water cycle, ecosystems, agriculture, human health, income, tourism, gender and livelihoods
  • Installed solar- and wind-powered autonomous instrument packages to measure black carbon and meteorology at high-altitude glacial locations in Langtang (4,900 masl), Nepal, and Chele La (4,100 masl), Bhutan, to help assess the role of black carbon in the melting of snow and ice in the Himalaya
  • Conducted community-based study on the impacts of winter fog on the lives and incomes of the poorest as part of a broader study on persistent winter fog over the IGP

4. Mitigation

Identifying, testing, piloting, and disseminating mitigation technologies and other solutions to reduce emissions from key sectors, including cooking, brick making, agricultural burning, and transport
  • Assessment of factors behind increased burning of agricultural residue, and potential mitigation options for this practice
  • Extensive emission and energy measurement of different indoor cook stoves was conducted, evaluating the adoption and performance of improved biomass stoves. This measurement was also conducted in 27 brick kilns across Nepal – among the largest measurement campaigns in South Asia. Various kiln structures and firing practices were studied, and stack emission for specific pollutants as well as energy consumption patterns were measured.

5. Building capacity, Knowledge sharing and networking

Building capacity

PhD fellowship programme: Women and men working on their PhDs at universities in the region spend a year working with ICIMOD scientists at the centre.

Regional media training workshop: A week long course was organized for journalists in the region to improve their understanding of atmospheric issues. Twenty-nine journalists from eight ICIMOD member countries participated in this training workshop.

Regional workshop on air quality instrument operation and maintenance: A training course with a combination of presentations and hands-on-experience on installation, maintenance, calibration, trouble shooting, and daily operational aspects of instruments was organized for the technical staffs of government and partner organizations in Bhutan and Nepal.

Likewise, a trainings on WRF Chem model and on remote sensing applications were also organized.

story grant programme was organized to provide journalists in the region with an opportunity to do in-depth reporting on atmospheric issues. Twelve journalists representing print, radio, television, and internet media outlets from seven countries produced over 60 stories.

Knowledge sharing and networking

Disseminating knowledge to the broad public through websites, articles, film, and other outreach activities, while building a network of scientists and practitioners across the region that share data and knowledge, and collaborate across borders.

A comedy telefilm entitled, Dhuwa was produced by partnering with two famous Nepali comedians. It depicted the health effects and other negative impacts of agricultural open burning and garbage fires. The film was aired on different channels and is also available on ICIMOD YouTube Channel.

Through regular updates to the initiative website and knowledge products, publishing high quality peer-reviewed scientific journals, and disseminating findings through staff articles and other medias, the initiative tailors knowledge to the needs of different audiences.

ICIMOD has brought together atmospheric scientists from the region in a series of meetings. We are coordinating a study of persistent winter fog over the Indo-Gangetic Plains with scientists from six countries working at 15 field sites in five countries.

Physical and social scientists are working together on field measurement collection, satellite data analysis, modelling, and community-based research to gain a better understanding of why persistent winter fog has increased in recent decades, its impacts on the lives of several hundred million poor people, and how changing pollution emissions and agricultural practices may be contributing to the fog.

6. Policy

Contributing to policymaking at local, national and global levels
  • The Initiative influences policy making by assembling and directly interacting with regional policy makers, contributing to the formulation of national documents, and highlighting regional issues at global fora.
  • Air pollution-related policy gap analyses were conducted for Bhutan, India, and Nepal.
  • Data from the air quality observatories set up in Nepal have been made available at the government’s website (, which has enabled access to reliable, real-time data for the public and media for the first time. ICIMOD also contributed to the five-year national planning targets set by Bhutan’s National Environment Commission, detailing the development of an air pollution public information system for Bhutan.
  • A series of national-level policy gap analyses were conducted. The analysis on Nepal is complete and the analyses on Bhutan and India are being conducted.
  • A master plan was developed for Nepal’s air quality monitoring network as a multi-sectoral effort in collaboration with Nepal’s Department of Environment.
  • HKH-specific issues are highlighted at the global level, leveraging ICIMOD’s unique position to address regional and transboundary issues in the region through increased engagement with the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), as a lead partner in its health and regional assessment initiatives and in the CCAC Steering Committee.


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