Air pollution in Kathmandu has reached critical conditions. Because of its bowl shape and being surrounded by mountains, pollutants created by exhaust fumes from vehicles and industry get trapped. People can wear masks when they are outside, but that only helps a little. Air pollution controls and programs are under way, but it will take some time for air quality to return to healthy standards.
Air pollution is a problem worldwide. Some areas of the Earth are worse than others, however, and these areas are going to need serious air pollution control methods if they are going to be livable for people. One such area that is in a crisis is in Kathmandu, Nepal. Kathmandu is the capital city and largest city of Nepal. Approximately 1.5 million people live in the city that is located in the center of Nepal near the Bagmati River. This city is also known for another, more distressing reason as well. It is one of the most polluted cities in the world.
Why is it so much more polluted in Kathmandu that anywhere else in the world? One of the reasons is where it is located. The mountain ranges of the Himalayas and the Mahabharat work together to form a sort of barrier around the city, which can trap pollutants. The seasonal airflows have a big impact on whether the pollution remains in the city or is disbursed elsewhere. During the winter, air pollution is carried out of the city during the day, but then the breezes from the mountains during the night carry the pollution right back into the city. These factors all work together to make the city of Kathmandu, Nepal, even more polluted during the winter than Seoul, Korea, during the beginnings of industrialization. Industrialization is not the source of air pollution in Kathmandu, it can, however, be attributed in a great amount to automobiles.
Many of the people of Kathmandu are now commonly seen with scarves, kerchiefs, and masks on their faces trying to keep themselves from experiencing health impacts from the increased air pollution. There are air pollution control measures being taken, but the bowl-shaped city is still seeing its air pollution levels increase.
Benzene is one of the most common pollutants in the air at Kathmandu. Benzene has been found in the air at levels from 23 ppm to 67 ppm. The World Health Organization’s standards for safe benzene levels are between 5 ppm and 20 ppm. Prolonged exposure to these high levels of benzene has been found to cause leukemia, or cancer of the blood. Other effects that have been seen in the citizens of Kathmandu are anemia and irregular menstruation in women. Other pollutants that are found in the air pollution in Kathmandu can cause other health problems as well.
The other pollutants in the air are also at such high levels that they have been found to cause acute respiratory infections in children and the elderly and chronic pulmonary disease. That is why the citizens of this city still pick up their masks each and every day before leaving their home.
Plans are being made to help decrease the air pollution in Kathmandu. Air pollution monitoring and enforcement of their laws will aid them in decreasing the threat on their lives that air pollution has caused. For now, though, they will continue putting their masks on when they leave their homes to help decrease the pollution’s impact on their health.