Air pollution, impact, and its causes

Jun 01, 2023
Sarbina Pokharel

Air pollution is the contamination of any chemical, a physical, or biological agent that modifies the natural characteristics of the atmosphere. Household combustion devices, motor vehicles, industrial waste, and forest fires are common sources of air pollution. Pollutants of major public health concern include particulate matter, carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide. Outdoor and indoor air pollution cause respiratory and other diseases and are important sources of morbidity and mortality. 

WHO data show that almost all of the global population (99%) breathe air that exceeds WHO guideline limits. Air quality is closely linked to the earth’s climate and ecosystems globally. Many drivers of air pollution (combustion of fossil fuels, Transportation) are also sources of greenhouse gas emissions. As per the monitoring data published by the Department of Environment which comes under the Ministry of Forests and Environment, Nepal has seen increasing growth in air pollution but despite all this, we see very few government-led initiatives which aim to sensitize citizens regarding air pollution and its health effects such as heart disease, lung cancer, and respiratory diseases such as emphysema. Air pollution can also cause long-term damage to people's nerves, brains, kidneys, liver, and other organs.  Although the people living in Kathmandu valley and its surrounding districts (Bhaktapur & Lalitpur) have started raising their voices regarding it. Some local levels, for example; Lalitpur Metropolitan City have started constructing a 4.7 km cycle lane, with the aim of making the city cycle-friendly; which can play a vital role in minimizing the carbon-emitting vehicle in the city areas.

Whereas the air pollution isn’t just a problem of Kathmandu Valley; other cities of Nepal like Nepalgunj, Dang, Chitwan, Birjung, etc see a major increase in pollution according to Department of Environment data, but many are unaware of it because most of the awareness camping is focused mostly around Kathmandu. This is an urgent need, people living in those parts of the country need to be sensitized to make their activities and decisions accordingly.

Understanding air pollution can be difficult for many people. We can make people aware of the adverse impact of air pollution through different use of technologies such as the Air Quality Index (AQI) and social media.