Sergio Shumsher JB Rana

Author is studying A-levels at Trinity International College

Published On: May 7, 2024 01:52 PM NPT By: Sergio Shumsher JB Rana

Pollution: Disruption of a balanced scale

Pollution: Disruption of a balanced scale

A relic of prehistoric times, the Kathmandu Valley is a natural marvel that displays the architectural prowess of nature. With hills of an astonishing range from 2700 to 8700 feet on average that encircles the land within, the valley bears resemblance to a sort of majestic bowl, enlarged in size. A closer examination of the structure and its formation some ten millennia ago reveals much more about the current climate situation. But how was this skeleton formed?

In summary, the Kathmandu Valley was a “lake”, believed to have been fed by the waters that flowed down from the mountains. According to the Nepal Geological Society, the lake the drained, leaving behind soil that bore high fertility due to the large number of organic matter deposited by the said rivers. The scientific reason behind the draining of this paleo-Kathmandu lake is believed to be due to the drying of the region, continuing mountain formation, tectonic uplift and faulting, and the formation of an “integrated drainage system” as river channels cut through rocks; but an array of cultures has their own stories on how the lake drained.

Regardless of the stories told about its origin, one hard proof remains constant; the structure of the valley. Surrounded by hills on all sides except faults in the southern and northern margins, Kathmandu is, geometrically, a bowl. The metropolitan area is relatively flat and the hills that make up the bulk of the outskirts act as natural walls that hold in air and moisture, and previously water too. The hills are covered in dense forests, and the basin itself is capable of supporting agriculture easily. The rivers and streams that weave in and out of the basin provide irrigation and necessary fertilizers through deposition of naturally decomposed organic matter.

Though the valley has fertile soil, the lack of vegetation is quite pronounced. As such, the valley now faces the problem of degrading air quality. While the reasons are obvious, they remain shrouded in obscurity. The first reason is of course, the structure of the valley itself. The hills act as walls that hold in the denser air which is an emulsion of dust, carbon compounds, and a vast array of other pollutants. This mixture is denser than pure air, which means that the gas settles in the valley, unable to leave simply because the hills act as a barrier against the wind’s current.

The next obvious rationale is the sheer population of the valley, as the area boasts a population

density of 20,288 people per square kilometer, while the average of the country itself remains a meager 216 per square kilometer. Adding the 1.2 million vehicles that operate on a daily basis on average in Kathmandu, the pollution problem becomes not only obvious but also expected. Now the question of the impact of the problem arises. So, what is the problem with pollution?

The problem with pollution isn’t just an aesthetic concern. Practical problems are an unwanted bounty that comes at the price of pollution. As smog clouds our vision, it gradually suffocates us, making even breathing a challenge. The effects of pollution are seen in a wide range of bodily systems; namely the respiratory, cardiovascular, neurological, and reproduction systems.

Developmental issues, allergies, skin problems, and mental health concerns like depression and anxiety are also proven to be associated with pollution. Effects are seen in individuals of all ages, especially in those who already suffer from chronic conditions. It also has an effect on the environment, as acid rain (formed when rainwater mixes with air pollutants) increases the acidity of the soil, killing organic plant life.

It is believed that the first king of Nepal- Prithvi Narayan Shah, formulated policies that indirectly displayed his intentions of keeping the valley as a farming hotspot. Now, completely contradicting the idea, the area hosts a whopping 5% of the total population of the country in just 0.4% of the total land area. While each set of data seems insignificantly obscure, adding them together reveals a much larger picture. Now, a call for the implementation of solutions becomes obvious. But what are the solutions?

In honesty, the path that lies ahead cannot be straightforward. “Government policies” seem to be the first option, but that on its own is not enough. Now that the concept of “clean energy” isn't as far-fetched, investment in such technologies may be a possibility. Reforms in the waste management system are also a prerequisite as the network of waterways is quite large. Now, cleaning programs are no longer a secondary effort, but a necessity, and so are green spaces and urban forestry. The need for a better public transportation system is more evident too, to reduce the use of private vehicles. The creation of public parks could further add to the strengthening of local ecosystems and the purification of air at smaller scales. Limiting the use of vehicles may seem impossible especially since the valley is an economic powerhouse, but could still aid the efforts. Identification and gradual eradication of the largest contributors of contamination seems to be the first logical step.

While this contamination problem is widespread, it can still be controlled and lastly exterminated. In short, the recent rise of Nepal in the AQI is associated with the geology of the area, overpopulation and overuse of automobiles, and the lack of proper vegetation. For a literal green future, the government and more importantly the people must recognize their role. The mistake in assuming that the ecosystem of the valley could withstand this pressure was neither the government’s nor the people’s. As B.P. Koirala put it, “Yesterday's mistake becomes today's experience, and today's experience shapes tomorrow's future.”


Leave A Comment

Recommended Story