By Drihsti Silwal
According to a report published by IQAir, Kathmandu has been enlisted among the top ten most polluted cities in the world. IQAir is a Swiss air quality technology organization mainly focusing on protecting against airborne pollutants, monitoring air quality, and developing air cleaning products.
Since last week, the quality of air has deteriorated in the capital city. The air quality remained unhealthy with pollution levels peaking up on Wednesday morning taking Kathmandu to the top of the most polluted cities ranking by the evening. As per the IQAir report of Wednesday evening (7 pm Local Time), the US AQI noted was at 155.
When the air pollutant reaches 155 to 200 mg/m3, the air quality is considered ‘unhealthy’, As per the US Environment Protection Agency’s AQI (Air Quality Index). It affects the public with the sensitive group being more vulnerable and feeling severe effects. Also, when it reaches 201-300 mg/m3, the air quality is considered ‘very unhealthy’. The air quality is considered ‘hazardous’ when it exceeds 300 mg/m3. Various emergence condition alerts may prompt to save the people from harmful effects.
“We used to get a clear view of Kathmandu from the top of Swyambhunath Stupa but nowadays it’s covered with dense haze due to pollution. It has affected the quality of life of people. The government must work on measures to control and prevent pollution”, said Dikshya Bista, one of the residents of Kathmandu.
Throughout the day, Kathmandu valley was covered in haze that hampered the daily activities of people as well as air services. The pollution also affected the operation of domestic flights in the airport in early hours of Wednesday due to the drop in visibility which was less than 2000 meters.
According to Teknath Sitaula, the spokesperson of the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), “Both the domestic and international flight services have been affected due to the haze. The flight services have been affected as a minimum of 2,800 meters’ visibility is necessary for landings and take-offs”.
Despite rainfall in some places in the evening, the pollutants remain aloft in the atmosphere. Till the weekends the AQI value was in the unhealthy range. Everyone must follow safety measures like wearing masks, avoiding outdoor activities, and closing windows.
According to Sundar Sharma, Under Secretary at the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority (NDRRMA), the smoke seen for the past few days over the sky was caused due to forest fires. The big forest fires increased the pollution level and low visibility across the country. The major districts include Bara, Chitwan, Humla, Parsa, Kalikot, Kanchanpur, Kailali and Rautahat. Also, he warned that the peak fire season would start in the fourth week of April and end in May for Nepal.
The conditions have improved since Sunday. The weather had been clear and people could get clear views as well. The AQI value had also dropped since early Sunday. As per the report, AQI value in the early Monday morning was 125 which is considered ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups of people’. All the necessary daily activities have started running smoothly without any hindrance with the starting of a new week.