On Monday, March 17th, Paris banned half of its cars from its roads (cars with even number plates) after pollution particulates in the air exceeded safe levels for five consecutive days. While looking at some of the pictures from the news event, I was a bit surprised at the level of pollution in such a well-reputed European city. The air pollution level for particle matter (PM10), in fact, hit a high of 180 micrograms per cubic meter (mcg/m3), which is well above the safe limit of 80 mcg/m3.
As I walked to work a few days after reading that news story, I started noticing many vehicles in Kathmandu emitting thick black smoke. I was thinking surely the city cannot be as polluted as Paris. There are fewer vehicles on the road in Kathmandu as residents make use of public transportation and motorbikes. Only four days later, I saw another report, but this time it was about Kathmandu and how it has become an unlivable place due to the pollution levels five times that of Paris. I could not believe that all this time I was breathing a thick cloud of smog. Nepal’s air quality ranked 177th out of 178 countries, according to Yale’s 2014 Environmental Performance Index (EPI), better only than Bangladesh.
With the recent road expansion in the Kathmandu valley, the problem of air pollution is likely to get worse. Even more, there is no sign for any action from government about the hazardous levels of air pollution. So, for now, it is all up to us living in the valley to do our best to tackle this problem by driving less, using public transportation more frequently, and wearing a good mask to prevent inhaling the particle matter.