July 21, 2024, Sunday
Nepal 1:37:26 pm

Life expectancy of Nepalis shortened due to air quality

The Nepal Weekly
September 5, 2023

Clean Air Network Nepal expresses deep concern

Clean Air Network Nepal, which has been active since 2004 as a semi-formal network of individuals, experts, national and international nongovernmental organizations, governmental organizations and private sector engaged in clean air issues. The leading NGO expressed deep concerns and demand immediate action.

The international report titled ‘Air Quality Life Index-2023’ released on Tuesday and based on the data of 2021, the average life expectancy of Nepalis has decreased by 4.6 years due to air pollution. The life expectancy of the locals in nine districts of Terai has been reduced by 6.8 years.

The data on Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5 collected based on satellites shows that Nepal is the third most-polluted country in the world. Air pollution is measured as fine particles with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers per cubic meter and smaller as PM 2.5.

The NGO working as local country network of Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities (CAI-Asia) which is a multi-stakeholder network of institutions and individuals committed to improving air quality management (AQM) in Asian cities.

According to the said international report, updated every year, based on the PM 2.5 standard set by the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution has become the biggest factor in reducing the life expectancy of Nepalis. The report also says that air pollution has reduced life expectancy by 4.6 years, followed by smoking by 2.8 years and high blood pressure by 1.7 years.

Based on the WHO standards, the entire population of Nepal is forced to intake polluted air in terms of annual particulate pollution. 

It’s monsoon time. Air pollution has decreased due to rain. Although there is not much discussion, an international report has shown that air pollution in Nepal has a serious impact on public health leading to a significant reduction in the average life expectancy of Nepalis.

Particulate pollution caused by small toxic particles in the air is continuously increasing in Nepal. Compared to 1998, particulate pollution had increased by 75.2 percent by 2021. According to the report, since 1998, the life expectancy of Nepalis has decreased by 2.2 years due to air pollution.

If air pollution is maintained according to the WHO standards in Terai district with high pollution along the border with India, life expectancy will increase by 6.5 percent. Likewise, if WHO standards are followed, the life expectancy of Kathmandu residents will increase by 3.5 years.

WHO recommends, the amount of PM 2.5 in the air should be 5 micrograms per cubic meter annually. However, Nepal’s air quality standards set it at 40 micrograms per cubic meter. In this calculation, the national standard set by Nepal is 8 times higher than the PM 2.5 standard set by WHO (annual average rate of 5 micrograms per cubic meter).

Emphasizing this fact, it is mentioned in the report that although there is such a big risk and challenge of particulate pollution in Nepal in terms of health burden, Nepal has not updated the annual standard of PM 2.5. Emissions from diesel-based vehicles, smoke from forest fires, smoke from brick factories, emissions from burning agricultural residues and burning garbage are considered to be the main causes of air pollution in Nepal.

Similarly, the pollution caused by the burning of large amounts of agricultural residues in northern Indian states is also believed to come to Nepal. Due to air pollution affecting most parts of the body, the number of patients with respiratory diseases, lung cancer, heart disease, hypertension, stroke has increased in recent years.