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Kathmandu Ranks Seventh Among World’s Most Polluted Cities with Alarming Air Quality Levels

January 18, 2024
Kathmandu Pollution

Kathmandu, the capital city of the Himalayan nation, has garnered the dubious distinction of being the seventh most polluted city globally, according to live data from IQ AirVisual. As of 2 pm today, PM2.5 concentrations in Kathmandu have soared to 154 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3), a staggering 12.3 times higher than the World Health Organization’s (WHO) annual air quality guideline value, classifying it as unhealthy.

Currently, Delhi, the capital of India, leads the global list of the most polluted cities, with PM2.5 levels reaching 259 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3). Following Delhi are Lahore (Pakistan), Kolkata (India), Dhaka (Bangladesh), Karachi (Pakistan), and Accra (Ghana).

Contributing Factors to Pollution in Kathmandu:

Several factors contribute to the alarming pollution levels in Kathmandu, including geographical and human elements. The city’s geographical location, surrounded by mountains and bordered by China and India, plays a pivotal role. Outdated vehicles, relying on obsolete motors and diesel fuels, emit high concentrations of pollutants. Additionally, the open burning of organic materials due to inadequate waste management infrastructure worsens air quality. Earthquakes, construction site dust, and the city’s geographical location exacerbate the accumulation of pollutants, as the city lacks elevation and wind to disperse them effectively.

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Types of Pollutants Found in Kathmandu:

Kathmandu’s pollution is characterized by fine particulate matter, including black carbon from incomplete combustion of fossil fuels. Outdated vehicles, relying on diesel fuels, emit substantial amounts of black carbon, contributing to air pollution. Other pollutants from vehicles include carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ozone (O3), and sulfur dioxide (SO2).

Most Polluted Months in Kathmandu:

Analysis of 2019 data reveals that the cleanest air quality occurred in August, with a PM2.5 reading of 11.8 μg/m³. Conversely, January to May and November to December experienced the highest pollution levels, peaking in January with a 102.7 μg/m³ reading. Six months of the year we recorded unhealthy air quality.

Health Impacts of Air Pollution:

Air pollution poses significant health risks, contributing to 7 million premature deaths annually, according to the World Health Organization. It is associated with various health issues, including lung cancer, respiratory infections, stroke, coronary heart disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Vulnerable groups, such as those with heart or lung diseases, the elderly, children, pregnant women, outdoor workers, and athletes, are particularly susceptible to severe health effects.

As Kathmandu grapples with environmental challenges amid economic growth, addressing pollution sources like diesel vehicles and open burning may improve air quality over time.


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