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Air pollutants threatening public health: Study

  Reducing particulate matter could save Rs 30 million in medical costs

HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE

KATHMANDU: High concentrations of atmospheric pollutants pose serious threat to the health of Kathmandu Valley’s residents‚ especially during the dry winter months.

According to a study ‘Rapid Urban Assessment of Air Quality for Kathmandu‚ Nepal’ commissioned by ICIMOD‚ acute respiratory disorders are among the most common five diseases reported in Nepal. In urban areas particularly‚ about 16 per cent of hospital visits and a disproportionate number of premature deaths have been attributed to them.

Studies have highlighted increased incidence of respiratory disorders and eye‚ throat‚ and skin conditions‚ as well as increase in cardiovascular-related problems among people living in Kathmandu.

“An estimated 30 million rupees (US$ 400‚000) in hospital costs could be saved every year by reducing the level of airborne pollutants to meet World Health Organisation guidelines‚” the study suggested.

From 2000 to 2009‚ the number of cars in Kathmandu Valley increased at an unprecedented rate. In 2000 there were less than 200‚000 registered vehicles but by 2009 there were half a million vehicles; more than 60 per cent of all the vehicles registered in Nepal.

Despite increase in the number of vehicles‚ the total length of the road network in the valley is only about 1‚200 km. Only of the road network in Kathmandu is black topped and each vehicle has less than 2.5 m of road available.

The report said vehicle exhaust is a major contributor to increase in inhalable particulate matter and noxious gases — the major causes of air pollution in Kathmandu — and the problem is exacerbated because more than a third of vehicles fail to comply with emission standards.

Urban development and ever-increasing number of vehicles have far outpaced the city’s capacity to maintain the road network on a regular basis.

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