KATHMANDU, Feb 26: After living for 26 years in the same house in Kusunti of Lalitpur district, 51-year-old Tara Karki decided to move to a different location six months ago. She was not at all happy to leave her old residence, but her doctor told her relocating was the only way to stop her health complications from getting worse.
According to Karki, things were perfect for around 20 years since the time she first moved into the house as a new bride. But in the last six years she began to suffer from health problems like headache, irritation, skin allergy and dry cough.
“Dry cough used to get so severe at times that I feared that I had developed tuberculosis,” Karki said. “My daughter took me to doctor Dirgha Singh Bam, who told me that it was all due to air pollution,” Karki said.
Dr Bam told her that her health would continue to deteriorate if she continued to live in dusty and smoky area.
After she told the doctor that her house was situated near a bus park in Kusunti, the doctor advised her nor to spend even a single day there. “After he told me that continuing to live there could make me a chronic patient of heart and chest, I wasted no time in shifting from the area,” Tara said.
Her family ultimately shifted to their old house in Dhobighat with a heavy heart. “I had entered the house in Kusunti as a new bride 26 years ago. My children were born and raised in the same house. I had good neighbors and friend circle,” she said. “Had it not been for my health, I would have never left the house,” said the mother of two.
But the family has now begun to see the brighter side of the decision to leave the house in Kusunti.
Tara´s health, just as predicted by Dr Bam, has shown remarkable improvement. Even the rest of the family members say they can feel the change.
“I used to have eye irritation and minor headache quite often when we were there. In fact, all of us used to suffer from blocked nose every now and then,” said Karki´s daughter Basu.
According to Basu, the house near Malpokhari in Dhobighat, which has enough greenery and no noise or air pollution, has proved a boon for all of them.
Kalanki-Thankot route massively polluted: ICIMOD
Very few people in the capital are as fortunate as Karki family members who had the choice to move to one of the two family owned properties that is situated away from the smoke and dust.
The ministry of environment (MoE) has recently released a fresh data on air pollution.
“Level of fine particles in the air with diameters less or equal to 10 micrometer is known as PM10. The national standard of pollutant PM10 is 120 microgram per cubic meter (UG/M3 - chemical vapors, fumes, or dust in the ambient air as a measurable value unit),” said Surendra Subedi, senior divisional chemist at the ministry. “And our latest data is simply alarming,” he added.
The air quality monitoring stations at various places in the valley have reported that PM10 in Putalisadak is 300 UG/M3, Thamel 200 UG/M3 and Bhaktapur 150 UG/M3.
These places recorded PM10 far beyond the national air quality standard, while Machchhegaun showed its PM10 at just 70 UG/M3.
It is essential to monitor the air quality on a regular basis so that measures to fight deteriorating air quality can be put in place.
However, six monitoring stations set up with an aid of Rs 60 million from the Danish government plus two stations in Kirtipur and Patan established by the MoE in 2002 remained useless for five years. Only four of them are in working condition at present.
When last measured in 2008, Patan, Thamel and Putalisadak showed the highest air pollution levels ranging from 120 UG/M3 to 135 UG/M3.
Subedi informed that the stations at Patan and Kirtipur may not come into operation any time soon as they are finding it hard to get spare parts for the equipment.
“We arranged the spare parts for the four stations that are now operational with a great difficulty. We have not been able to find parts for the other two machines yet,” he said.
A recently published report by ICIMOD says that the route from Kalanki to Thankot is massively polluted.
Pointing at the significant rise in respiratory diseases among Kathmandu residents over the years, the study, conducted from 2009 to 2011 at various places in Kathmandu, calls for immediate steps to tackle the problem of air pollution in the Valley.
The rapid increase in urbanization in the Kathmandu valley and the accompanying growth in the number of vehicles are responsible for the increased level of polluting gases and solid particulate matter in the air, the study says.
“High concentrations of pollutants in the lower atmosphere are prime health risks to the residents of the Kathmandu Valley, especially during the dry winter months. The main pollutants in the valley are particulate matter, carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide,” it says. “The air pollution in Kathamandu is now so serious that it has posed a threat to the health and wellbeing of the citizens and potential deterrent for tourists,” it adds.
Vidya Banmali Pradhan, an atmospheric environment specialist at ICIMOD, said that there is no need to use a device to measure the level of pollution in the valley as each one of us has been experiencing its impact on our health.
“We are experiencing it in our day-to-day life,” Pradhan said.