The Threat of Ambient Air Pollution!

The current state of Nepal’s air quality is in a degraded state like never before. A hazardous layer of haze has blanketed the town for many days.

Although the air pollution was starting to become increasingly worse around January of 2020. The severe urgency and critical condition of the air quality were only exposed after the smog appeared.

The history of smog dates back to the Great Smog of London in 1952. The smog caused accidents since people couldn’t see. It was one of the first signals of our climate crisis. And now the smog has returned to Nepal, here are some dangers that may occur because of the smog.

Dangers of the smog

There are many dangers and risks caused by the current state of air quality. The first and most direct is definitely health risks. 

The people under most potential harm are the elderly, patients with asthma, and other respiratory ailments. And of course extremely dangerous to people with COVID-19.

Some common problems faced by people directly exposed are burning eyes, itching, and coughing. 

The reason smog is very dangerous is because they consist of harmful substances like sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and PM-10s which can find their way deep into our lungs which may damage the lung tissue.

The dangers of hazardous smog do not only limit health risks. 

Even the International Airport got closed because the visibility was so low that it dropped to 1000 meters. This is very dangerous to domestic flights as well as international. 

In addition, education is also affected by smog. Since going outdoors is unwise, schools were also temporarily closed down.

Policies made in aware of air pollution!

Now, Kathmandu is one of the most polluted cities in the entire world calls for a high level of concern and action. At a time like this what policies are being implemented and taught by the government?

The government of Nepal has declared that educational institutions were to be closed for a few days. This is the first time in Nepalese history that schools got closed due to pollution, instead of usual reasons like Nepal bandha. Hence online classes were once again resumed. 

The government also urged people and is still advising citizens to stay indoors as much as possible. 

Even the construction and burning of trash are halted. However, we could still see the Dharahara tower being constructed.

Environment specialist Bhusan Tuladhar argues that the government should have declared emergency and awareness when the Air Quality Index (AQI) reached 300. It was 500 on January 5th and has reached up to 600 since then! 

However, it is said that the area regarding the main cause of this smog and air pollution has not seen any police or control being followed. They seem to want to deal with this situation by simply letting the fires burn out. This brings us to the question, what is the reason for this sudden smog and terrible air condition?

air pollution

What is the reason for this pollution?

The main cause of this pollution is wildfires!!! 

It is common to wonder why wildfires have caused so much pollution when they occur frequently in this season. Before too, wildfires had darkened the Kathmandu sky but only briefly. The reason for worry and pollution for this particular year is the prolonged period of time and how early it arrived. These fires have now lasted for 5 months and continue to get worse. 

The main reason for these early and prolonged fires is the extended winter drought. With precipitation over Central Nepal at only 10% of normal, and the dry spell continuing into spring.

Another reason this particular year has weighed heavy is because of the increase in growth of scrubs and dried grass due to the decrease in movement last year from the COVID-19. This added more flammable materials to the wildfires. People also sought to burn all the extra dried grass and trash which again led to more forest fires. 

Although the main reason may be wildfires, it is not the only one. Experts suggest that industrial pollution across and within borders is also at fault. And of course, vehicular pollution also adds to this crisis. They also explain that it is actually these vehicles and industries that constantly emit these harmful air pollutants throughout the year. In comparison to wildfires which only occur about once a year.

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The smog also has dust and sand blowing from Arabian and Indian desserts worsening its conditions. The wildfires resulting in this air pollution are not solely from Nepal. Wildfires in Uttarakhand have also been burning since October and add to Nepal’s sensitive condition. The main locations of wildfires have been Dhading, Rasuwa, and Kaski.

At a time when people were finally going outside after being restrained to their home, yet again another crucial crisis has struck. Although it may feel unimportant and hard, we should try to stay home as much as possible and limit our vehicular usage. The sensitive state of the atmosphere right now is a giant red flag for people and major companies and governments. It is a red flag to take action and reduce our carbon emissions and footprint as much as possible. 

Nepal had never felt such a direct effect of climate change and global warming before. Although this situation may feel cursed and unfair, we hope it lights up a path of awareness and cautious actions towards healing the environment. 

It is a tough lesson imparted upon us but we must learn from this air pollution. Whereas for more immediate action, the government should be definitely making some major decisions, instead of being distracted by its internal politics. 

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