Admit it, the Delhi smog has had you thinking about the safety of the air we breathe. After all, isn’t Kathmandu just as bad, if not worse? We wake up to our furniture coated in dust (didn’t we wipe that table down just the day before?) and find ourselves covered in grime by the time we get back home. But apparently the quality of air in Kathmandu isn’t as bad as it is in the capital city of India. That, however, is no reason to celebrate. Kathmandu too has high levels of air pollution and while we might not be able to do much about it on an individual level, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take any action at all. Here’s how you can do your bit to mitigate air pollution.
Plant trees in your neighborhood
Planting trees is a cost-effective way to tackle urban air pollution, which is a growing problem for many cities especially Kathmandu. A study by US-based The Nature Conservancy reported than the average reduction of particulate matter near a tree was between 7% and 24%. One easy step that everyone in your neighborhood can take to clean up the air around them is to plant extra trees around the area. Everybody at least plant a fruit tree or two in whatever extra space they have in their homes. Trees can absorb pollutants and carbon dioxide, making them extremely useful for improving air quality. Trees also mitigate the greenhouse gas effect by trapping heat, reduce ground-level ozone levels and release life-giving oxygen. In addition, trees will make your neighborhood look aesthetically appealing. That’s a win-win in every situation, if you ask us.
Minimize air pollution from cars
Vehicles are one of the biggest emitters of nitrogen oxide that has an adverse effect on healthy lung development and overall lifetime expectancy. As a driver you can help reduce pollution from your car by sticking to a few simple rules. To start with, try to drive less by combining trips or carpooling. Another great idea is to bring your lunch to work, so you don’t have to drive out during lunch break, or you can discuss with your co-workers on going to get lunch together. Do not speed up or drive aggressively because that only produces more emissions. And if possible avoid driving out during rush hours. Then, be sure to keep your car tuned and regularly replace air filters at recommended intervals. Even something so easily overlooked as keeping your tires properly inflated plays a role in the amount of gases your car will emit. If you are looking for a new set of wheels, why not buy a hybrid? These great vehicles combine electric and fuel energy to give better mileage and many produce nearly zero emissions. And, if you have to commute short distances, walking or cycling is always a great idea.
Consider switching to renewable energy
Renewables are much cleaner version of power generation. Though it might seem like a major investment, in the long term its benefits far outweigh the burden of the initial cost. And technology has made such great progress in the recent years that there are now many affordable options and programs available for residential use of renewable energy. For example, photovoltaic solar panels produce energy without emitting gases. So, if you switch to solar energy, you would lower your personal amount of emissions quite significantly. However, the exact number depends on how much of your total energy demand is covered entirely from solar power.
Don’t burn wood or trash
Burning your household garbage is dangerous to your health and the environment as well. However, burning firewood and trash is among the largest sources of particle pollution and it’s quite common in Nepal. If you must use a fireplace or stove for heat, convert your woodstove to natural gas, which has far fewer polluting emissions. Compost and recycle as much as possible and dispose of other wastes properly. Don’t burn it and encourage others to not do it either. Try to educate your family and neighbors about the hazards of trash burning.
Join an environmental group
Consider joining any environmental group. You can meet people, discuss issues and share ideas on what you can do about it. Spread the word and ask your family and friends to join your cause. We all want a safe and healthy environment to live in. By working together, we have a better chance of making this goal a reality. There are many environmental organizations working to protect the environment today, and you can do your part by joining forces with these organizations. If that isn’t an option where you live, you can start by talking to your local representatives and government officials about the concerns that you have related to air pollution in your community and encourage them to act on it.