Punishing Valley’s Air Polluters

Published On: January 4, 2023 07:52 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

Air Pollution is a major environmental issue facing the Kathmandu Valley which is already on the list of the most polluted cities in the world. Industrial and vehicular emissions are the major reasons behind the air pollution in the capital valley. Although waste burning, and indoor air pollution from cooking and heating with wood and other biomass fuels, too, contribute to polluting the air in the valley, vehicles failing the pollution test, particularly vehicles running on diesel fuel contribute significantly to the levels of particulate matter in the air, as well as other pollutants such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides. These pollutants can have serious health impacts, including respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, as well as environmental impacts such as acid rain and the degradation of air quality. Air pollution levels particularly rise in the valley in winter. The bowl-shaped Kathmandu Valley is surrounded by tall mountains which trap the polluted air for days and make the matter even worse. Whatever the geographical reasons may be, air pollution is largely a man-made problem and we humans are responsible for that. There are places with a similar geography in other countries too. They have put in place measures to check air pollution.

In Nepal, too, there are measures put in place but their implementation is very weak. In fact, the failure to implement these measures is why the air pollution level has been rising. The authorities responsible for controlling air pollution should stop passing the buck and blame the lack of coordination among them for the failure to check air pollution. All three levels of governments must be serious about it. According to government statistics, there are over 1.5 million vehicles, including two-wheelers, in the Kathmandu Valley. Most of these vehicles that are poorly maintained are major contributors to the air pollution in the valley. However, it is good to see that in recent times the government authorities have stepped up measures such as surprise checks to discourage the use of polluting vehicles and punish the guilty. In such surprise checks carried out recently, the Department of Environment tested 341 public vehicles for pollution. But it is disheartening to notice that 143 or 41 percent of these vehicles failed the pollution test. Most of the vehicles undergoing the pollution test in this way were passenger and cargo vehicles and water tankers running on diesel.

It is a matter of worry that nearly half the vehicles failed the pollution test in the valley which is said to be home to over five million people. Though there is a mandatory provision for vehicular pollution tests, the lack of the implementation of the same has invited a situation like this. This means the pollution regulating bodies need to be serious as well as stricter about enforcing the laws against air polluters. Department of Environment officials have said that they will move forward with their surprise checks in the valley by making it even more effective. Now the officials of the Department carry out these surprise pollution tests on vehicles at three different places a week in the valley. In the past, vehicles failing the pollution test would be given a chance for repair and let go, but now such vehicles are banned from running on the road as long as they don’t pass the test. Now the vehicles failing the pollution test time and again can be fined as much as Rs 100,000. This provision in particular is expected to mount pressure on vehicle owners to keep their vehicles well-maintained. However, it goes without saying that this problem cannot be resolved only through monitoring and taking action by the government authorities. Vehicle owners are expected to keep their vehicles safe for the road as well as the environment. Air pollution affects everyone equally, including themselves. 

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