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Kathmandu Valley air quality shows improvement
from the Kathmandu Post

KATHMANDU, Feb 20 - At last, there is good news regarding air pollution in the Kathmandu valley. A recent study has revealed that air quality in the valley has improved significantly this year.

"The air quality in the valley this year improved by 16 per cent this year (2003-2004) as compared to last year (2002-2003)," Chiranjibi Gautam, Advisor of the Air Quality Monitoring project of Environment Sector Programme Support (ESPS), told The Kathmandu Post.

The study shows that concentration of fine dust particles, known as PM10, has come down to 175 micrograms per cubic meter this winter against 210 micrograms last winter. However, the valley air is still unhealthy as it contains PM10 above the safe limit of 120 microgram. Yet, the reduction is a great relief since the concentration of PM10 at some places like Putalisadak and Patan Hospital areas had at times crossed even 425 micrograms.

Thanks goes to air joint quality improvement measures initiated by the Ministry of Population and Environment (MoPE) and ESPS, a DANIDA-supported project at the ministry.

The first of its kind since MoPE began regular monitoring of air quality in the valley since November 2002, the study is based on the analysis of pollution data obtained from six valley based air quality monitoring stations set up last year.

The government, in collaboration with ESPS, had started adopted a number of air pollution monitoring and control measures in 2003, and the improvement can largely be attributed to them.

MoPE began vehicular emission-monitoring programme on June 5, 2003 in collaboration with the Valley Traffic Police Office (VTPO). In this programme, a joint team of MoPE and VTPO monitors black smoke belching vehicles and takes necessary actions against them.
Likewise, the Department of Transport Management has installed the latest Four-Gas Tester and Opacity Meter, and has tightened the awarding of green stickers. Vehicles are the major source of PM10 in the valley.

Similarly, environment friendly and energy efficient technology has been adopted by replacing traditionally operated brick kilns, which come after vehicles in contributing to the valley’s pollution.

Out of the 120 old kinds of brick kilns in the valley, ESPS supported 40, which are less polluting than the traditional ones, to adopt the new technology.. The brick kilns, which are a significant source of PM10, usually come into operation during the winter season, which leads to a significant rise in the pollution level of the valley at that time. Over a dozen illegally run brick kilns have already been demolished so far.
An intensive training program conducted by the government also contributed to the improvement in the air quality. Over 400 automobile technicians working in vehicle workshops in the valley were trained under the Vehicles Anti-pollution Training Programme. They were mainly given instructions on the proper maintenance of vehicles from the environmental point of view.

Another major anti-pollution measure taken by the government was the phasing out of as many as 2,400 two-stroke engine three wheelers that was started last year. Two-stroke engines are supposedly 12 times more polluting than four-stroke ones.

PM10 is the only air polluting challenge to the valley air. It is the major cause behind growing cases of heart diseases, asthma, respiratory problems and other diseases among the valley residents.

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