How can the Kathmandu air pollution issue be solved?

OK, let's first assume the government will either get out of the way or cooperate. It's easy to bash governments and criticize politicians. I just get bored with that dialog and, as expats, I think it's important to remember we are here at the Nepali government's pleasure. So, in a perfect world, how could we solve this problem?

I've thought so much about how to get rid of the pollution in Kathmandu. I'm at a higher point in the valley so we have clean, fresh air but I can look down and see the pollution over the city.

This valley was once a huge lake and Kathmandu is where the deepest part was. So, the dirt and dust is silt like a lake bed. This dust joins with car/bus exhaust and doesn't let it go anywhere. I guess the dust weighs the particles down and the pollution just hangs.

One thing I've come up with is that there is a plant called kenaf, similar to bamboo. It absorbs 10 times the CO2 as the next best tree and is excellent for making paper. It's a 6 month crop and doesn't need much water, so if they planted these trees in March and watered them for a month or so the monsoon would take care of the rest and then harvest for paper in October. I think it would be easy to plant them in the middle of the highway between Ktm and Bhaktapur. This would be practically free due to the end harvest or it could even make a profit. One issue is it might draw cows to the highway because the leaves are edible.

What are some other solutions?

Practical ways often cited are the following:
Prevention of Air Pollution
1. Using smokeless sources of energy like smokeless stoves. In Nepal's countryside in particular, it is a well known fact that people inside their modest homes burn up a lot of wood to do their cooking, sit around the fire or stove and inhale on a daily basis a lot of harmful substances that way. The way around this is to use more bio-gas, solar energy etc, and here economics enter into the equation.
2. Have more and stricter regulations to stop the proliferation of brick factories throughout the country, and close some of them in heavily populated areas.  Emissions from those factories omnipresent in Nepal do no good to anyone living around them. Hardly good for peoples' lungs.
3. Locating industries away from residential areas.
4. Strictly regulating pollution levels in automobiles' exhaust emissions, notably by passing laws against any vehicles still being on the road, especially when they get, like you see so often in Nepal, to be 15-20 years or more. Ever found yourself behind a truck or a fleet of heavy vehicles on the congested road from Ktm to Pokhara, for example? Have you seen (and worse inhaled) those thick black exhaust fumes coming those so often ancient diesel trucks and buses? They need to pass more and stricter legislation about this in Nepal...and then enforce those laws. Too many old vehicles on the road.
5. Planting more trees of many varieties. I understand people need wood to keep themselves warm and to cook, but unless more trees are planted than are being cut, deforestation on a national scale is bound to get worse and worse in a country like Nepal.   
Prevention of Water Pollution
1. Water pollution is caused by dumping of domestic sewage, industrial wastes and detergents or other chemicals into water bodies like they do, notably those dumped daily - to this day - into the Bagmati River. Ever driven along that body of water? Excuse me, but it stinks the high heaven. Just recently, they did a report and took photos of clean-up volunteers to show how dramatic that situation still is, at present, and this despite any periodic efforts they have made to clean it up.
2. Recycling various products. Said products should be recycled instead of being dumped into the rivers of Nepal. Bio-gas can be made from city waste. How far has Nepal gone down this road? Not very far, to the best of my knowledge. They should. Will the present "Caretaker" government do it? That's another question.   
Prevention of Land Pollution
Land pollution is caused by solid wastes like city wastes, crop residues and industrial wastes like fly ash, chemicals and pesticides...and polythene bags. We've all read about how they make periodic attempts to clean up Everest and other places by going to pick up those bags, but they should do much more in this area.
1. Proper solid waste disposal like sanitary landfill. But you know as well as I do that in Nepal, the number of those who have toilets in the countryside (as opposed to cities, where the number is higher) is so very very limited.
2. Using limited amounts of fertilizers and pesticides.
3. Avoiding polythene bags altogether.

It's all about trying NOT to disturb the precarious ecological balance of the country.

If Madagascar believes that kenaf will work to reduce high levels of the city's pollution, she can start by planting it in Ratna Park where the pollution is the heaviest, bordered by the main roads always full of heavy, noisy polluting traffic, near the bus station there. Good idea - have to start some place!  Mind you, that park was originally built for children. Nowadays, it needs more vegetation and trees. After all, it is the only really large open space left in the whole city of Kathmandu. From time to time, I go there, and the place is closed, often because the Nepali Army has appropriated it, using what was to have been a "green park" for training exercises of many hundreds of its soldiers - sometimes on horseback.
If New York has Central Park used by thousands of joggers there, why not same-same in Kathmandu's Ratna Park?

It's easy to bash governments and criticize politicians, but to address these pollution issues, there have to be political decisions, and legislation settled in order to change things.
For sure planting trees is a good idea, as well as cleaning the bagmati river every week, but it is simply a drop in the bucket without proper legislation ...

Your rite. Proper legislation is neided to take corrective action. Let's hope that our people in charge of environment will take action quickly as situation is not geting any better, in fact geting worse day to day. I know cos I am nepali and live here. I hope they plant or do someting which works. Time is of the esence. Lets bash pollution is what I say. Antipollution masks are not enough.

I take your point. I think all of us are now waiting with bated breath, for tangible developments to take place on this vital issue.
Anyone else have solutions?

Monica is spot on in her comments about factors directly affecting air pollution in Nepal. If one is to believe the Kathmandu Post article just out, there are 5,500 two decade old vehicles now plying nepali roads. So if they do implement this nepali Regulation 2054BS Act they are talking about, those thousands of old hacks would taken off the roads in this country. So if they actually start doing that next month, obviously that would constitute a first step in the right direction toward reducing harmful particles and emissions into the same air we all have to breathe. Time will tell.

Worth remembering that anyone who is interested can always have easy access to the latest official information on Air Pollution levels here, by going to the net and entering the search words "AQI in Kathmandu"". Simple as that. Information is given in real time too. Data is provided daily and constantly updated as a matter of public service. AQI is therefore a number used by government agencies to communicate to the public how polluted the air is or how polluted it is forecast to become. The purpose of AQI is to help people understand what associated health effects might be a concern for us all. The AQI focuses on health effects one may experience within a few hours or days after breathing polluted air. The AQI is divided into these categories:
0-50                                                       Good
51-100                                                  Moderate             
101-150                                                Unhealthy for sensitive groups 
151-200                                                Unhealthy for everyone
201 and above                                    Very unhealthy, then hazardous at 300
Today, for example, the information provided in real time by US Embassy, Phora Durbar, Kathmandu, tells us that the AQI Pollution Index, on 04/02/2018 at 12:00 precisely, stands at 189

If you think that Kathmandu's air is bad, Lumbini - 260 kms away, a 7-8 hour drive - is much worse. According to both the KP and the HT newspapers, new data just released by the Government's DoE Department shows that Lumbini's level of air pollution is  currently 150% higher than that of Kathmandu. I did not know this, but apparently the DoE now has 12 stations monitoring air pollution, including those located in Ratnapark, Kirtipur, Bhaktapur, Dhulikhel, Pokhara and now in the news,  Lumbini, etc. The officials attribute the Lumbini problem to the dust of nearby cement factories coming from India and elsewhere.
In Kathmandu and the Valley, the report says, the high pollution is attributed to vehicles, dust, agriculture work, and brick kilns. So Monica was correct.
The report says that 47% of the nepali vehicles with "green stickers" fail the pollution emission test. Here we are talking about 100,000 vehicles in round figures.
The report about Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Budhha, will hardly be good news for the tourists intending to visit that revered site. News contained in that DoE report tends to confirm that air pollution is pervading across the country, and not only limited to the capital, as some think.
For one, I seriously doubt that planting will be sufficient to solve the problem, and yes, not only more legislation will be required, but enforcement of same. Time marches on, and so does air pollution in Nepal. No time to waste.

In keeping with this thread, the answer as to the nature of the measures which can be taken to reduce air pollution is of course to ultimately phase out the large number of brick kilns still operating in both Kathmandu and the Valley. In the meantime, it's encouraging news just put out by Nepal's Department of the Environment (DoE) to be informed that in a first step,  the DoE is doing its job by focusing its best attention on these kilns by somehow limiting the height and other norms of these towering chimneys one sees everywhere. Brick kilns are of course well known polluters of the air with an adverse effect on peoples' lungs and state of health in general. Reason is that in greater Kathmandu area, these kilns burn a reported 12,000 tons of coal and nearly as much other fuels. Dust then generated due to air movements do nothing to help either. We can all hope that these new  DoE measures will in due course bring relief to the community if and when implemented. The reported number and location of these kilns is presently as follows:
- Kathmandu: 15
- Lalitpur;        32
- Bhaktapur:   63
Total:             110

I think you'll find that those figures are conservative. Last year, the press reported that 120 brick kilns were duly registered by Bhaktapur Cottage and Industries, alone. Brick factories are notorious for creating air pollution.

Speaking of brick kilns, I saw a new one going up the my Nepali helper tells me has some filter to help with the pollution.

I think this issue of air pollution is only going to improve in the years to come. It is on the way up.

If air pollution is going to get any better in Kathmandu and the Valley in future years as we can all hope, authorities will have to take legislative and other measures like now, in order to progressively phase out brick kilns. The longer they soft-peddle legislation and dilly dally, the longer the problem will persist. If you are now saying that they are adding a "new one"" in your area, it's just going to make the whole ambient air worse than it already is, with all the well known resulting risks on health.
Today, February 12, 2018, for example, the AQI Air Pollution Index in Bhaktapur stands at AQI 178, Unhealthy Level. This compares with Kathmandu's level of AQI 161, also today.
You can verify these readings for yourself by just going to the net, and keep updating yourself in real time from these totally reliable reporting Stations and professionals in your area.

I would like to give a simple reply to this question. Let us not make too complex. As we can see that Kathmandu is clearly in phase of vigorous development, such as construction of roads and etc. My point is that when they first began urbanization in the valley, it was totally unplanned. Therefore, what we are experiencing is not called for. Therefore, previous made roads has to be destroyed to install new pipes for water or some other uses to meet the demand of ever rising population in Kathmandu valley. This creates dusty roads unless reconstruction is done. On the other side, old vehicles especially trucks and buses which emit too much smoke should be banned. The third hypothesis I would like to present is since development started its pace, and it has not been too long, just some years as we have seen vigorous constructions of new houses, roads and other infrastructure, there has to be some compromise on the part of nature. Therefore, trees needs to be cut, rivers get more polluted to accompany wastes of millions. Therefore, when all of it comes to settlement as we hope some things can be done, but of right now its hard to control unless a right direction is thought of reversing the process of pollution and give us back our old at the same time a modern Kathmandu :)

They are now saying that by 2050, seventy per cent (70%) of the world's population will be living in big cities on our planet. Cutting down trees like you say is just going to make the situation that much worse. In the meantime, quite understandably people like this other contributor, Myxat, reported a couple of days ago, have already left Kathmandu because of breathing in all that terrible dust in the air that you've also mentioned, owing to all that construction now going on in the capital. Is the air quality situation likely to improve over time in Nepal's capital between now and 2050? Not if more and more people flock here and the government's plans to make Kathmandu even bigger than it already is by a hefty margin in next two decades is implemented.

I totally agree with such a critical point that you made. The quality of air is not going to improve if more and more people migrate to major city like Kathmandu, however if we can give a nice direction and plan accordingly foreseeing the future, we can somewhat prevent it from catastrophe, which I still think is possible. I believe that people saying that Kathmandu is too polluted is somewhat a myth because if we look at a bigger picture lets go back in the past for a moment, how long has it been since flock of people have migrated here, I think not much. I would say, although not researched 9-10 years. Before this period, Kathmandu was unrecognizable as we compare of now. The problem is that we have acute pollution problem not chronic. The air quality has been acutely affected that can be reversed unlike major metropolis and cities which I would not mention that has numerous factories, mega urbanization. Overall, I mean to say is that how many factories does Kathmandu have? How long has it been we see so much vehicles in Kathmandu, how long has it been since construction of buildings and roads has begun unlike some countries where due to pollution you don't even get a glimpse of sunrays. So, acutely - Yes, chronically, maybe reversal is still possible. It's my opinion though at last. Thanks!

Kathmandu Valley's present population is 3 million. A accelerated rate of population growth is anticipated in the future. In the context of the recently announced "New City" plans for the capital, it has been projected that population will double to 6 million inhabitants by the year 2050. No exception to the rule, Kathmandu is following the general trend of more and more people gravitating to the big cities around the planet.

I think the best approach looking at the present context would be " Accurate precise planning for decentralization." This will take some time and its complexity cannot be ignored but is not impossible at all. Therefore government should actively participate in bringing new projects for development of periphery regions seeking help from different sources and mobilizing its resources and manpower providing benefits at first. So, in this way we can plan accordingly.

There are solutions that will work. But, what is needed is a solution that will work in Nepal. Basically, you will need an outside government or NGO that is willing to fix the problem and pay 5 times the cost, officially allocating 80% of the funds for bribery.

There was an article in yesterday's Himalayan Times where two government offices in the Land offices got into a brawl fighting over the bribe money. They were fined 1000 NPR. They weren't fined for bribery, that is acceptable. They were fined for fighting in a government office.

I read an article in the Nepal Times a few days ago where the government office refused to allow dirt to be removed in the last flood in the Terai until all the bribes were properly paid for the permits. Until that was done, the homes stayed under water.

For now, Kathmandu is unsalvageable. Anyone who wants to help Nepalis is best sent outside the city where people need help and help can can actually be delivered.

I agree that a solution must be found, but which one is the big question?
1. NGO's: The organization Frontiers in Public Health writes that the number of NGO's working in Nepal has grown significantly since the 1990's. They go on to say that between 1979 and 2014, a total of 39,759 NGO's and 189 INGO's were registered in Nepal in various sectors including:
- public health
- agriculture
- poverty alleviation
- good governance
and point out that despite the work they have done and all the money they've spent in the last four decades, "Nepal remains one of the poorest countries in the world". Their conclusion is that aid and donor support are insufficient for sustained development
So my question would be: If 40,000 non-profits have not done the job in the last 40 years, what tells us that 50,000 or more NGO's will be able to do any better?

P. S. After living in Nepal so many years, all I can say is that I am not at all impressed by what I have seen of results either. The orgs here are controlled by the SWC which is itself a corrupt organization. Secondly, they have this rule in Nepal, that foreigners cannot go on the board of directors of the local NGO. It's a problem because being a strictly nepali affair, the local NGO 7-member board controls the purse strings. Someone is benefiting, surely, but it leaves the door wide open to personal abuse and very tempting in z pocket violations. (Note: There will be good exceptions to the rule always. Thank God.)

2. Outside Government help and support -
Let's run through your proposal, using your 20%-80% allocation figures.   
If I understand you correctly, you are suggesting that by lending, say, 10 million dollars to Nepal, the local nepali people you are trying to help would actually only receive $1 out of every $5 being donated. 
Surely that would make the already corrupt officials very happy, but don't you think that giving more money to the corrupt, it is just encouraging more and more bribery, more and more corruption?
Is there no end in sight to all this?
What about the needy?
Any other solutions out there?

At some point, you have to tell the baby that he needs to walk on his own. Nepal is still a 12 year old child crawling on the ground because everyone is still bringing it stuff.. NGO's should leave until they can get decent operating rules. Nepal is like an alcoholic. They are out of control. Like an alcoholic, their only hope is to hit rock bottom.

Exactly right. New rules regulating every NGO in Nepal should be formulated , put into place and enforced. To start, each and every NGO should be required to prepare and make public a complete annual report (i.e. min. once a year) detailing:
- how much money came in - showing nature/source of funds, donations, receipts,  on the income side of the report
- how that NGO money that was given to them was expended - on the expenditure side of the ledger - read "where the money went...?"
In all my years in Nepal, I don't recall seeing a single set of non-profit accounts, being disclosed by anyone. Not one.
NGO statement of accounts should be prepared by both the company's Certified Accountant and without exception, prior to also being audited by an Independent Certified Auditor, selected from an approved list. Both are needed for proper accounting, using "due diligence and in conformity with generally accepted international accounting principles...." which they attest to (with Seal/Stamp and Signature)
Knowing how things work in Nepal, it wouldn't hurt either if a rule was also instigated limiting the amount of each NGO's "administrative expenses" to a certain percentage, to be defined. If I am not mistaken, in the USA for example, administrative costs of large organizations like the Red Cross etc. cannot by law exceed 30% of incoming donations/receipts
Will Nepal join the regulatory climate of the international group of nations, that is the question?
Until they do, how can anyone expect any kind of Transparency?

Coming back to those dreaded brick kilns, Pilar's information is spot on. A week ago, the HT put it in black and white that brick kilns operating in Bhaktapur district are posing a serious threat to public health there as well as in nearby areas. According to the paper, people in that area are saying that not only these kilns are adding air pollution but, worse, they've turned large swatches of arable land into non-arable terrain to excessive digging by mud excavators. The Mayor of the area, one Som Mishra, is quoted as saying that children also working there without basic facilities like drinking water and toilets. As if to compound the problem, the Mayor alleges - and here I quote "they have no authority to monitor these offenders of the environment" - all according to same HT source.
Assuming the reporting to be correct, I must say that it's troublesome, to say the least. We can only hope that some sort of solution can be found for the public's good.

I read that news report too. Had same reaction you did. At the rate they are going, air pollution in that general area can only get worse before it gets better.

How very right you are to stress the need for complete transparency and making those accounts public, but hardly the government line. In fact quite the opposite if one is to believe the Himalayan Times of April 19, 2018, which ran this headline: "Finance Minister of Nepal throws transparency norms to the wind". And this was in the talks this high and responsible official had with foreign donors, the paper reported.

Curious to know how the country is planning to move forward without transparency norms?

After everything that has been pointed out here by other contributors, the answer as to how the air pollution issue can be solved seems pretty clear. The Government will have to take strong remedial action, pass legislation and adopt such other corrective anti-pollution measures as may be required to stamp it out. They have to take the lead and they have to set the tone. If those in power fail to do that, I don't see who else is going to do it. The problem of the Bhaktapur brick kilns in that town is a perfect example. Local authorities  there are on record and quoted as saying that they at municipal level simply do not have the power to act.
Let's hope corrective action is taken so everyone can breathe more easily. It's a public health issue and a serious one too.

One solution would be to remove garbage from city streets, which has been piling up for the last 3 weeks in the capital, remaining uncollected. It's really beginning to smell foul in front of my house. Besides, it's real health threat

Some time ago, legislation was passed to take vehicles older than 20 years off the road in Nepal, thus relieving pollution. Now, of all things, they are talking about revoking that directive or so the Kathmandu Post just reported this day. A  bit difficult to follow.

About that latest really tragic accident near TU in which a cyclist fell into an open drain, regrettably left open with no manhole cover, and died, the President of Kathmandu Cycle City (KCC) has made this statement: "This accident is a good reminder of how unsafe Kathmandu City is for cyclists in terms of road conditions, air pollution and threat of large vehicles". Really sad.

It sounds as if Dupuis' worst fears are about to come true. In what will amount to a most disconcerting about face, the government - which previously had banned 20+ year-old vehicles - is now set to allow them to ply the roads of Nepal all over again. Whatever the reasons, surely not the way to improve air pollution.

About that open drain incident, resulting in the death of that yoga teacher near TU, it's now being reported that no one had thought or cared to cover up that gaping hole in the last 6 months. Hard to comprehend and senseless. Where I come from, we would sue the company in charge of those works for gross negligence and recklessness - violation of basic public safety.

Re thread for Kathmandu air pollution, the figures are out. They indicate that the number of motor vehicles in the the city now tops 1.1 million. To be added to that, are 921,000 motorbikes, 142,000 vans and jeeps, 48,000 trucks and buses, 13,000 tillers and bulldozers and 6,300 tempos and micro-buses. That comes to another 1.1 million 2-4 wheelers of various types.
As everyone knows, vehicles in the capital - well over 2 million of them in total - are major air pollution contributors, producing significant amounts of nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and emitting other nano particles dangerous to human health. Unfortunately, this is the air city dwellers have no choice but to take into their lungs.
In the light of those sombering facts and figures - and coming back to our thread - we can then legitimately again ask: how on earth can air pollution issue in Kathmandu be solved ?
Next to impossible is the answer unless certain vehicles are taken off the road, or they introduce alternate day travel or some other traffic/vehicular restrictions of this type.
As for the rest of the country, same sources show that Nepal has 3.23 million vehicles plying those roads.

Just recently, the Kathmandu Post said it all: "Air quality in Nepal is among the worst in the world. The country is now ranked fifth from the bottom among 180 countries by the Environment Index 2018"

You are right about that, it's in the top 5 worst countries in the world as far as Environmental Performance Index, but it is THE WORST country in the world (ranked at 180) as far as Air Quality goes. You can check it out here … report/AIR

So long as Nepal is in that unenviable position of being the worst country in the world for Air Quality and fifth from the bottom for Environment like you say, I totally fail to see how this Himalayan Kingdom , as once called, is going to successfully develop tourism, attract more visitors, promote trekking, mountain climbing, develop new activities and business in general. Hardly the rosy picture of how they so often are trying to portray this "heavenly place" to the public in their ads. Let's hope they clean up their act. Daunting task ahead really and the worst part is that these well documented reports reflect a nationwide condition, with no pretense that pollution is only present in, or limited to, big cities like Kathmandu, Pokhara, etc.

Informative article in Kathmandu Post of 23/11/2018 which points to latest findings by University of Chicago scientists. According to them and revealed for the first time "Particulate air pollution cuts the average person's life by nearly 2 years".

Up to date recorded Air Quality Index (AQI) in Kathmandu, Phora Durbar station, this 25/11/2018 is as follows:  405 level in real time (taken 3 hrs ago). Hazardous pollution level is defined as anything between 301 and 500. For more and better information, check AQI on the net with updated conditions as they occur.

I think there have been a few positive improvements, although they don't show up just yet. First, they are building a couple of international airports to get some of the traffic out of Kathmandu. Secondly, they are getting some big, electric buses. They have already banned cars over 20 years old and a few other things.

I think positive changes are on their way. It's just that change takes a long time in Nepal.

To refresh memory, Kathmandu Post's headline (Sept. 25, 2018) read: "Government may revoke ban on old vehicles", a major contributor to air pollution. Incomprehensible.

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