Moving Mountains

For mountains and people

Air quality

In the Hindu Kush Himalaya, air quality impacts the entire region through the summer monsoon and winter westerlies, which can transport pollution such as black carbon over long distances. That means the emissions from vehicles in a crowded city might impact farmers in remote parts of a neighboring country. Local air pollution is a regional problem.

Pollutants can intensify haze, which not only leads to health problems but can reduce crop yield from lack of sunlight. An increase in winter fog, traceable in part to pollutants from sources such as brick kilns and firewood burning, can lead to a cycle where sunlight is reduced, local temperatures drop and people burn more firewood to ward off the chill, sending more pollution into the air and intensifying the problem.

Greenhouse gases and short-lived climate pollutants can also impact the temperature balance of the lower atmosphere. Evidence indicates that overall atmospheric temperature in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region has already increased. Air quality impacts the environment in ways that communities experience every day, scientists can quantify and track, and policymakers need to understand.

Featured Publication

Towards an environmentally just and socially equitable brick industry in South Asia: An overview of ICIMOD’s interventions in the brick sector (2019)

A clean brick sector is characterized by lower emissions, energyefficient technologies, and good working conditions free of child labour

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News and features

Around the HKH

Related Initiatives


Atmospheric Watch Initiative

The Atmosphere Watch Initiative was established in 2013 as part of the Centre’s Atmosphere Regional Programme. Until December 2019, this Initiative was known as the Atmosphere Initiative.

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Air Pollution Solutions

Until December 2019, this Initiative was known as the Bricks Initiative. The 120,000 brick kilns scattered across South Asia release huge amounts of greenhouse gases and black carbon into the atmosphere. Commonly known as soot, black carbon is the second biggest global warming pollutant after carbon dioxide.

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Did you know air quality impacts the environment in ways that communities experience every day, scientists can quantify and track?

Video and science application

Atmospheric haze monitoring in the HKH

The application combines near real-time MODIS visible bands (RGB product), and AOD (Aerosol Optical Depth) products to generate an air quality index. Information from NASA's AERONET stations is also integrated into the system.


You will find publications produced or related to this topic in HimalDoc, our publications repository. These resources include journal articles, books, book chapters, research reports, working papers, brochures, information sheets, and publicity materials, among other products.

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