The EPI Report and misunderstanding between #Air Quality and #Air pollution in Nepal

Last week, researchers at Yale and Columbia Universities published a report; the 2018 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) report, in collaboration with the World Economic Forum (WEF) ranking 180 countries. The ranking is based on Environmental Health and Ecosystem Vitality of each of those countries. The environmental health topic covers three issue categories namely Air quality, Water quality and Heavy metals and the ecosystem vitality topic covers seven issue categories namely Biodiversity and habitat, Forests, Fisheries, Climate and energy, Air pollution, Water resources and  Agriculture; hence a total of ten issue categories. Each of these ten issue categories is, in turn, scored based on one to six performance indicators and there are altogether 24 such indicators.

After the report got published, Nepalese media published news stating that Nepal ranks 176th among 180 countries in terms of air pollution. Some ‘mainstream’ called media too published news stating the same. They further stated air pollution as a leading environmental threat to public health. The press release by Yale has clearly stated that air quality is the top environmental threat to public health, not air pollution as most of the news reports in Nepal wrote. They did not note the distinction between air quality and air pollution and wrongly transliterated air quality as air pollution. No doubt that Nepal is ranked at the bottom (180th country) in terms of air quality with a score of 3.94. But the rank of Nepal in terms of air pollution is 87 with a score of 49.58 and the overall EPI rank is 176 with a score of 31.44. (See country report/Nepal)

The performance indicators of air pollution in this study include Sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions and Nitrogen oxides (NOX) emissions whereas performance indicators of air quality include (Particulate Matters of less than 2.5-micrometer diameter) PM2.5 exposure, PM2.5 exceedance and household solid fuels. The level of PM2.5 we have been hearing generally and exclaiming air pollution level in Kathmandu is the indicator of air quality, not air pollution in this study.

In a nutshell, it is not that the air pollution is the highest in Nepal but that the air quality is the worst.

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Nature khabar

News published in Nature Khabar. They deleted the news after the comment.

 

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News in Kathmandu Post stating AIR POLLUTION as the leading public health threat, citing the EPI report.

 

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News in PHP Nepal copied from the Kathmandu Post.

 

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No clear message in Republica.

 

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AIR QUALITY is the top public health threat according to Yale, not AIR POLLUTION

 

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News in Kantipur daily. I commented but they did not think that it needs to be corrected.

 

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My long comment for the news in the Kantipur daily. They approved the comment but did not correct the news/information.

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हावा कुरा….

नेचर खबरमा प्रकाशित, यो लिंकमा पनि उपलब्ध छ – http://naturekhabar.com/ne/archives/8505

जूनकिरीले अतिनै कचकच गर्न थाली । केहि गरिपनि बुझाउन नसकेपछि केहि दिनअघि हेलो सरकारलाई मेन्सन गर्दै ट्वीट नै लेख्नुपर्यो । कुरो के भने, मैले केहि दिनदेखि दिनको दुई खिल्ली चुरोट पिउन थालेको थिएँ । “चुरोटको धुवाँले स्वास्थ्यमा गम्भीर असर गर्छ, मुटु, कलेजो, फोक्सो, रगत के के हो के के लाई नकारात्मक असर गर्छ, चुरोट खान पाउनुहुन्न” भनेर हैरान । “ए बाबा, म काठमाडाैँको धुलोमा चोबिसै घण्टा ढुक्कसँग सास फेरेरै बस्या छु र त अहिलेसम्म ठीकठाकै छु । दिनभरीमा मैले पिउने जाबो दुई खिल्ली चुरोटले के नै असर गर्छ र भन्या” भन्ने मेरो खास कुरो ।

म चुरोटको अम्मली भने होइन । पहिलापहिला, बच्चा बेलामा बाख्रा चराउन जंगल जाँदा, सुकेको पिठौरीको पात माडेर सुर्ती बनाएर, त्यही पिठौरीको पातमा बेरेर बिँडी बनाएर तानेकोलाई अपबाद मान्ने हो भने, मैले कहिल्यै पनि बिँडी वा चुरोट खाएको, पिएको, तानेको त परै जाओस्, सल्काएको सम्म पनि छैन भन्दा हुन्छ ।

हेलो सरकारलाई लेखेको पत्र ठ्याक्कै यस्तो थियो – “डियर हेलो सरकार, हेर्नुस् न, चौबिसै घण्टा काठमाडाैँमा सास फेर्दा त म ठीकठाक छु । दिनभरिमा खाने जाबो दुई खिल्ली चुरोटलाई लिएर जूनकिरी सधैँ कचकच गरिरहन्छे । कसरी सम्झाउने होला, सुझाव पाम् न ।” “काठमाडाैँको धुलोले समेत केहि गर्न नसकेको मान्छेलाई, दिनको जम्मा दुई खिल्ली चुरोटले केहि असर गर्दैन, धेरै कचकच नगर्नु…” भन्दै हेलो सरकारले कम्तीमा, जूनकिरीलाई एउटा पत्र काटिदिन्छ कि भन्ने कत्रो आश थियो । तर अहँ, हेलो सरकारबाट पनि केहि माखो मरेन । सरकारलाई समेत गुहार्न पुगियो हैन? भन्दै उल्टै घरमा रडाको बढ्यो ।

अघिनै भनिसकेँ म बिँडी चुरोटको अम्मली होइन । तर कुरो के भने, सरकारले केहि महिनाअघि एउटा निर्णय गरेपछि मैले पनि, जिन्दगीमा केहि नयाँ अनुभव पनि लिउँ न त, मौका यहि हो भन्ने ठानेर दिनको दुई खिल्ली चुरोट पिउने निर्णय गरेको हो । सरकारको निर्णय के भनेयदि काठमाडाैँको धुलो धुवाँले गर्दा कुनै रोग लागेमा उपचार खर्च सरकारले बेहोर्नेछअनि मनमनै सोचेँ – यदि धुलो धुवाँकै कारणले कुनै रोग लागेमा सरकारले उपचार गरिदिने भएपछि जीवनमा नयाँ अनुभव पनि लिइहालूँ न त । धुवाँकै कारण केहि भएछ भने, यो चुरोटको धुवाँले हो कि काठमाडाैँको हावाको धुवाँले हो भनेर कसलाई के थाहा ? उक्त रोग हावामा भएको प्रदूषणकै कारणले हो भनेर डाक्टरले प्रमाणीत गर्नुपर्ने भएपछि चाहिँ अलि संकोच लागेको थियो तर ती मुला डाक्टरलाई पनि के थाहा मेरो फोक्सोभित्रको धुवाँ चुरोटको हो कि काठमाडाैँको हावाको हो भनेर भन्ने सोचेर ढुक्क भएँ । डाक्टर अलि चलाखै रैछ भने, यस्सो कुरा मिलाउँला नि, कति नै लाग्ला र भन्ने लाग्यो । अनि त्यही दिनदेखि हो मैले दिनमा दुई खिल्ली चुरोट पिउने निर्णय गरेको । तर जूनकिरीको कचकचले हैरान ।

केहि दिनदेखि वातावरणकर्मी भनाउँदाहरु पनि खुब तातेका छन् । जाडोको बेला तात्नु त राम्रै कुरा हो, तर यो कागजमा बल्ड्यांग्रे अक्षरमा कुन्नी के के लेखेर चाहिँ किन दुनियाँलाई देखाउँदै हिँडेका होलान् । त्यसले हावामा भएको प्रदूषण कसरी घटाउँछ भनेर अहिलेसम्म बुझ्या भए मार्दिनु । बरु पोहोरपरार हाम्रा स्वास्थ्यमन्त्रीज्यूले जस्तो यसो पानी सानी छर्केर सडक बढारेको भए केहि हुँदो हो । तर खै, हाम्रा कुरा कसले सुनीदिने र ?
सबका सब जान्नेसुन्ने आजकल त । प्रदुषणको तह सरकारले तोकेको मापदण्डभन्दा धेरै गुणा बढि हुँदा पनि सरकारले केहि गर्न सकेन भनेर कोकोहोलो छ । जूनकिरीले अस्ती घरमै एक लेक्चर दिईहाली । “बाहिर हिँड्दा मास्क लगाउन कहिल्यै नभुल्नु, म घरमा नभएको बेला केटाकेटीलाई धेरै बाहिरतिर डुल्न नदिनु, मर्निगं वाक स्वाक गर्नु पर्दैन, बिहान प्रदूषणकाे मात्रा धेरै हुन्छ…,” के के हो के के । अस्ति छोरोलाई अस्पताल लिएर हिँडेकी थिई, हावा राम्रो छैन भनेर मास्क लगाइदिइछे । डेढ वर्षे छोरो निसास्सीएर झण्डै मरेको ।

प्रिय सरकार, म राम्रोसँग बुझ्छु अरुको कचकच सुन्नु पर्दाको तनाव । तपाईँलाई कस्तो भइरहेको छ भनेर सजिलै अनुमान गर्न सक्छु । त्यसैले, काठमाडाैँको प्रदूषणलाई मापदण्डभित्र राख्ने एउटा अचुक उपाय सुझाएको छु । वायु प्रदूषणको लागि सरकारी मापदण्ड २५० माइक्रोग्राम प्रति घनमिटर भनेर तोकिदिऊँ । त्यति गरिदिने हो भने हावामा प्रदुषणको मात्रा मापदण्डभन्दा कहिल्यै बढि हुन पाउँदैन । अनि न तपार्इँलाई यी वातावरणकर्मीहरुको कचकच सुन्नुपर्ने चिन्ता न मलाई जूनकिरीको लेक्चर । चुरोटबारेको जूनकिरीको कचकच बरु केहि दिनपछि म आफैँ मिलाउँला ।

Breathing woes of Kathmandu

An edited version of this article is published in The Himalayan Times. This link – https://thehimalayantimes.com/opinion/breathing-woes-kathmandu/

January 05, 2018

Air pollution has become a major environmental, and ultimately a health problem in developing as well as some developed cities. Kathmandu has not been able to be an exception. Instead, Kathmandu has gotten some new names due to excessive dust and air pollution. Dustmandu and Maskmandu are the commonest ones.

The average, hourly concentration of PM2.5 (Particulate Matter of less than 2.5 micrometer diameter) in the Kathmandu atmosphere last winter reached four to five times the government standard of 40 micrograms per cubic meter; forget about the World Health Organization (WHO) standard of 25 micrograms per cubic meter for now. And this winter too, the concentration is very likely to rise as high as the last winter’s if not higher. Signs are already on the way since the onset of winter. Yes, the government has formed a rapid task force and other organizations have performed some actions to control air pollution in the valley but such actions were performed last year also to some extent. If these actions will really make a significant difference this time that remains to be seen. The Department of Environment had said in March that a draft of the action plan to control air pollution in the valley had already been prepared and had intended to launch it by the end of that fiscal year and what the secretary of the Office of Prime Minister and Council of Ministers (OPMCM) was saying some weeks ago, in late November was “the action plan on air pollution control in the Kathmandu Valley would be immediately approved and forwarded.” This shows the pace and seriousness of our government work.

Grave consequences

A WHO report published in 2015 states that exposure to outdoor air pollution causes some three (3) million annual deaths worldwide. It also reads, “Nearly 90% of air-pollution-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.” Another report published last March states that, of the 1.7 million child deaths every year worldwide, five hundred seventy thousand children under five year of age die from respiratory infections attributable to indoor and outdoor air pollution. Though exact figures of such death are not available for Kathmandu, we can easily assume that such death is high here as it has been ranked as the seventh worst polluted city in the world in terms of air quality recently. [Numbeo’s Pollution Index 2017] How can we expect a high number of children to survive who get born in the seventh worst polluted city in the world and inhale toxic air since their first breath?

Weird suggestions

Here are the suggestions you will get, to avoid air pollution in Kathmandu – avoid all sports activities, do physical activities only after noon, don’t leave home without a mask, don’t go for a morning or evening walk as air pollution is higher in the morning and in the evening!

Are these any pragmatic suggestions? Do we have to wait until noon for any physical activities? Do we have to go for a morning walk in the afternoon? Or avoid morning and evening walk totally!? Is it practicable to put a mask on a one-year child while carrying him/her out of the house? According to news reports, the ordinary, cheap cloth masks that people generally put on in Kathmandu are ineffective against the pollutant particles. Is it ethical to prevent children from going outside and playing? Can we expect them to be healthy that way? Sounds like there will be suggestions like “Do not breathe wherever and whenever you like; do it only at designated places!” in the near future. It is quite confusing if these suggestions strictly followed, will prepare healthy or ailing citizens.

What can be done?

The only panacea is – cleaning the atmosphere. The suggestions of increasing the effectiveness of green stickers in the vehicles and promoting large size buses for public transportation have already become clichés. The government’s decision last March, to ban the 20-year-old public vehicles in Kathmandu also helps to reduce pollution though there were some controversies. Switching to euro 5 standard fuels is also an alternative but it seems quite unrealistic unless India uses and sells fuels of this standard.

Vehicles are obviously the major source contributing some 38 per cent for air pollution in the valley, but they are not the only source. According to a BBC report, the brick kilns of the valley destroyed by the 2015 earthquake are being rebuilt using new technology that emits less polluting soot and smoke.  The government should encourage such technologies providing technical assistance as well as subsidies for those who are building new brick kilns in/around the valley.

Hundreds of trees along the ring road were cut some years ago citing its widening, but we do not hear news reports about such large-scale plantations in the valley. Forget about the government promoting urban forestry, the Forest Act 2049 does not recognize urban forest as a separate forest type. No matter how wide the ring road became, not a single lane for cycles is apportioned. What is the use of a city with roads of multiple lanes and skyscrapers where we have to fear for breathing? Trees are reported to have a significant impact in reducing the atmospheric pollution. For the long-term solution, trees should be planted wherever possible. Sprinkling water or buying road broomers are only short-term remedies.

And, the health minister, like the last year, and mayors sprinkling water and sweeping the dusty roads is also a good way to reduce the dirt flying to the atmosphere but this is not a sustainable solution. 

Breathing woes of Kathmandu THT

Epaper link – http://epaper.thehimalayantimes.com/index.php?mod=1&pgnum=6&edcode=71&pagedate=2018-01-05&type=

Set Emission Limits

Published in The Himalayan Times. This link – https://thehimalayantimes.com/opinion/set-emission-limits-mitigation-priority/

The Himalayan Times Article 2017 -12-01

Dec 01, 2017

The 23rd Conference of Parties (CoP23) ended with an agreement, among others, to prepare a ‘rule book’ next year in Poland for the implementation of the Paris Agreement but the Emissions Gap Report by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) already revealed, right ahead of the CoP that, the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) i.e. the voluntary emission reduction pledges by the parties will only help achieve one third of what is envisioned in the Paris Agreement.

It is seen that most of the countries with a negligible individual share in the global Green House Gas (GHG) emission are facing the greatest threats caused by climate change. The Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) lamented the same on the 23rd CoP and pleaded with the top emitters to cut down emissions. Lamenting and pleading are the things they mostly do in such negotiations because they cannot pressurize the top emitters as it is those same top emitters from whom they are getting (also expecting more) technical and financial helps for mitigation and adaptation programs.

Mitigation or Adaptation?

Mitigation of climate change is far better than adaptation. Any life form in this earth except human beings can neither project the degree of change in future climate nor understand humans’ projection and get prepared for this change. Those species which can face the unprecedented change will persist and those which cannot will go extinct. Therefore, adaptation programs work well only for humans if at all. So mitigation should be of higher priority than the adaptation programs. Hence, the emissions should be so reduced so that there will be no further necessity of adaptation programs in the days ahead.

But how to reduce the emissions has become the main issue at the present. When the climate scientists already warned that climate change is a grave threat to human existence itself, isn’t it time to set appropriate Annual Emission Limits for each country ensuring that the temperature rise does not exceed the threatening level? The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) should be given the full authority over it and each country should abide by the guidelines developed by it. The population size of the country might become one of such bases for setting such limits.

Science proves that the climate change is very real and politicians still debate whether it is real or not. What a pity! This is exactly the opposite of what actually it should be. There should be no debate as if one accepts climate change or not because individual acceptance or denial does not stop the process of climate change in any manner.

Will Climate Funds Really Work?

These are so many funds established for the climate change mitigation and adaptation programs. The Adaptation Fund, the LDC Fund, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) are some of them. Let’s take an example of the REDD program which is supposed to receive payments, after 2020 AD based on the results presented, from the GCF. According to the Transparency International’s latest release, 87.5 per cent (56 of the 64 countries) partner countries of the UN-REDD program have a serious corruption problem, i.e. Corruption Perception Index (CPI) score of less than 50 out of 100. (2016 AD) Data is not available for 5 countries. Eighty-three percent of those countries (53 of the 64 countries) have CPI of less than the global average score of 43. So, will the REDD investment actually benefit the ground level, poor communities who are ignorant of this vast technical issue? Optimistically, there are safeguards. The better thing is there are seven of them. But, would the safeguards really work, should the countries be so corrupt? The corruption in these countries is so rampant because the people there are very good at outsmarting the policies. There is no assurance that the safeguards will be wisely adhered to.

Now, if paid for the results based payments, disparity increases within the country (as they are highly corrupt and the fund will mostly go to the hands of influential politicians and top-level bureaucrats) and if not paid for failing to meet the safeguards, the investment for the REDD readiness goes to waste, only increasing the country’s burden on climate budget. Those who will be able to present the convincing results will be paid and the others will be left behind, which increases the disparity between the countries again. But, a lot of scientific research needs to be done before jumping into the conclusions.

Hence, if obligatory Annual Emission Limits are set for each country based on scientific standards, no organism has to suffer from the impacts of climate change. Who suffers more and who suffers less will no more be an issue. It is difficult to understand why humans are creating the problem and making each innocent organism in the earth suffer?

Forests Fuelling Progress

Featured

Published in The Kathmandu Post – this link

The KTM Post Article

Sep 12, 2017

With the end of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015, the world has now embarked on another path towards the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. Prepared by the United Nations (UN), the agenda constitutes 17 goals with 169 targets envisioning a more peaceful, just, sustainable and inclusive world by 2030. These goals have been dubbed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and address three dimensions of sustainable development—social, economic and environmental. Achieving these goals requires ambition and hard work. Nepal’s community forestry sector can contribute significantly to the achievement of these goals as well.

What began with the handing over of a patch of forest to be utilised and managed by the local villagers of Thokarpa Village in the Sindhupalchowk district in 1973 has now become a world renowned community forestry model. Community Forests (CF), as stated by the Forest Act 1993, are that part of a national forest which is handed over to the local people, forming a group known as Community Forest User Group (CFUG), for the management and utilisation of the forest and its resources provided that they are able and willing to manage it. Now, there are 19,361 CFs in the country with an equal number of CFUGs.

Policy linkage

Poverty and hunger reduction were targets for the very first goal in the MDGs. The first and second goals of the SDGs also aim to eradicate extreme poverty in all its forms and end hunger and achieve food security by 2030. The Community Forest Development Program Guideline 2014-15 clearly states that 35 percent of the total income of the CFUG should be invested in pro-poor targeted programs within the group. The annual income of Nepal’s CFs is over $10 million and the figure continues to increase as the number of CFs being handed to the user groups is also increasing. The community forestry sector contributes roughly $4 million annually (35 per cent of $10 million) to the pro-poor targeted programs. Though there are accusations that community forestry is under elite domination, the poor are also benefiting considerably. Community forestry has the potential to bring about a number of positive developments, however, this process is impeded by a lack of effective governance and law enforcement.

The Community Forest Development Program Guideline also stipulates that among the two tiers of the organisational structure of CFUG, i.e. General Assembly (GA) and Executive Committee (EC), either the chairperson or the secretary must be a woman. In order for the group to establish and maintain a bank account, there must be a joint signature, of which one signature must be a woman’s. These provisions help empower women and girls, involve them in the decision-making process in public life, and provide equal opportunities for leadership which are envisioned in the fifth goal of the SDGs. Similarly, there must be 50 percent women participation in the EC with proportionate representation of Dalits, Janajatis, and indigenous and marginalised people. This helps to reduce inequalities within the country by achieving inclusive and just societies, and it also ensures inclusive participation in public decision making. There are so many CFUGs that are run solely by women and are reported to perform better than mixed gender CFUGs. The provisions of annual public hearing and internal and public auditing help develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions. This process has worked in the CFUGs case as well. It is deemed mandatory for 25 percent of the income from the CF to be spent on forest management, development and protection activities. This aims to minimise adverse effects of climate change, combat desertification, halt and reverse desertification, and halt biodiversity loss.

Positive impacts

The CFUGs have been involved in numerous other activities like providing scholarships for deserving students from their groups, constructing gobar-gas (biogas made from cow dung) plants, constructing and/or maintaining physical infrastructures like roads, schools, hospital buildings and toilets to name a few. These activities all help to accomplish targets in one way or the other. The scholarships help in ensuring quality education, constructing toilets and hospitals help to ensure sanitation and healthy lives, constructing gobar-gas plants ensures access to affordable and sustainable energy, and so on.

But it is neither the provisions nor the goals themselves that make a difference. We have to act upon them to bring about the desired differences. The UN itself states that the SDGs are not stand-alone goals, and neither were the MDGs. So it cannot be explicitly stated that a particular sector/activity helps achieve one specific goal. Achievement (or underachievement) of one goal has considerable impacts on the achievement of other goals too. For example, eradicating poverty and ensuring sustainable consumption and production helps to reduce hunger, managing forests sustainably and scientifically helps to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change, ensuring inclusive and quality education helps to create peaceful, just and inclusive societies and so on. Evidence also shows that families with educated mothers are more stable. So, either directly or indirectly, the forestry sector, and community forestry in particular greatly impacts the achievement of global goals. Budget allocation for the forestry sector has to increase and more work should be done to achieve greater and more sustainable benefits.

Another positive point of CFGUs is that they are not run by politicians, but by local people who work for their own personal advancement. This increases the likelihood that guidelines will be adhered to.

पेरिस सम्झौता, अमेरिकी बहिर्गमन र नेपालको भूमिका

आदित्य आचार्य  र महेश पौडेल

नेचर खबर अनलाइन पत्रिकामा प्रकाशीत यो लिंकमा पनि उपलब्ध छ: http://naturekhabar.com/ne/archives/5119

प्रसंग पेरिस सम्झौताबाट बाहिरिने अमेरिकाको निर्णयबाटै सुरु गराैँ। राष्ट्रपति ट्रम्पले सो निर्णय गर्दैगर्दा लगभग पूरै संसार त्यसको विरोधमा उत्रीयो । अमेरिकाले पेरिस सम्झौतामा सहभागी नै नहुने भन्दै उक्त सहमतिमा हस्ताक्षर नगरेको भए त्यति धेरै हल्लीखल्ली हुने थिएन जति सम्झौताबाट बाहिरिने निर्णय गर्दाखेरि भयो । ट्रम्पले, जलवायु परिवर्तन एउटा अफवाह मात्रै हो भनेर राष्ट्रपति हुनुभन्दा धरै अगाडिदेखि भन्दै आएका हुन् र राष्ट्रपतिको चुनावी सभामै पनि उनले आफू राष्ट्रपति निर्वाचित भएमा पेरिस सम्झौताबाट बाहिरिने कुरा बताएका हुन् । यद्दपी अमेरिकीहरुले उनलाई नै राष्ट्रपतिको रुपमा निर्वाचित गरे । हुन त एउटा मात्र चुनावी एजेन्डालाई हेरेर जित र हारको निर्क्येाल हुन सक्छ सक्दैन, त्यो राजनीतिको छुट्टै पाटो होला, तर यसले संकेत चाहिँ के गर्छ भने जलवायु परिवर्तन अफवाह मात्र हो भन्ने सोचाइ राख्ने अमेरिकीहरुको बहुमत छ । तर पनि जलवायु परिवर्तन साँचो समस्या हो र यसलाई घटाउन हामी प्रतिबद्ध छौँ भन्ने अमेरिकीहरु पनि कम छैनन् । अनि सत्य चाहिँ के हो भने कसैले मान्दैमा वा नमान्दैमा जलवायु परिवर्तनको प्रकृया रोकिने होइन । यो त निरन्तर चलिरहने प्राकृतिक प्रकृया हो । समस्या चाहिँ, तापक्रम वृद्धिको दर सामान्यरुपमा हुुनुपर्ने भन्दा बढि भएको कारण मात्र भएको हो ।

पेरिस सम्झौता
सन् २०१५ को नोभेम्बरमा फ्रान्सको राजधानी पेरिसमा, जलवायु परिवर्तन सम्बन्धि संयुक्त राष्ट्रसंघिय प्रारुप महासन्धि (युएनएफसीसीसी) का १९७ पक्षराष्ट्रहरुको सम्मेलनमा गरिएको सम्झौता नै पेरिस सम्झौता हो जसमा विश्वव्यापी तापक्रम वृद्धिलाई पुर्व औद्योगिरकणको समयको तुलनामा २ डिग्रीभन्दा तल राख्ने र अझ संभव भएसम्म १.५ डिग्रीभन्दा तल राख्न प्रयत्न गर्ने सहमति भएको हो । सम्झौतामा हस्ताक्षर गरेका १९५ राष्ट्रहरुमध्ये हालसम्म १५१ राष्ट्रहरुले सम्झौतालाई अनुमोदन समेत गरिसकेका छन् । दुई राष्ट्रहरु सिरिया र निकारागुवाले भने हस्ताक्षर नै गरेनन् । लामो समयदेखिको द्धन्द्धका कारण सिरिया उपस्थित हुन सकेन भने निकारागुवाले जिम्मेवार राष्ट्रहरुले गर्नुपर्ने हरितगृह ग्याँसको उत्सर्जन कटौती स्वेच्छिक मात्र भएको, बाध्यकारी नभएको भन्दै आफूले हस्ताक्षर नगर्ने बतायो । यद्यपी विकसित मुलुकहरुले, विश्वले अपेक्षा गरेभन्दा धेरै अगाडिनै अनुमोदन गरेपछि, सन् २०२० पछि कार्यान्वयनमा आउने अपेक्षा गरिएको सम्झौता सन् २०१६ को नोभेम्बरदेखि नै लागु भएको हो ।

नेपालको भूमिका
पेरिस सम्झौताको पक्षराष्ट्र भएको नाताले, नेपालले पेश गरेको राष्ट्रिय रुपमा गर्नसक्ने योगदानको प्रतिबद्धता (इन्टेन्डेड नेसनल्ली डिटरमाइन्ड कन्ट्रिब्युसन) पत्रमा उल्लेख भएअनुसार, हरितगृह ग्याँसको विश्वब्यापी उत्सर्जनमध्ये नेपालको योगदान जम्मा ०.०२७ प्रतिशत मात्र छ । यो त एकदम नगन्य मात्रा हो । सबैकुरा यथावत रहने हो भने, अहिले भइरहेको विश्वब्यापी उत्सर्जनको एक प्रतिशत उत्सर्जन गर्न नेपाललाई आउँदो करिब चालिस वर्ष लाग्नेछ । तर जलवायु परिवर्तनबाट सिर्जित जोखिमहरुप्रति भने नेपाल अति संवेलनशील राष्ट्रहरुको सूचीमा पर्दछ । यसरि नेपालले जलवायु परिवर्तनका लागि गर्ने योगदान चाहिँ नगन्य तर त्यसका प्रभाव तथा जोखिमहरु भने उच्च रुपमा व्यहोर्नु परिरहेको अवस्था छ । यस्ता राष्ट्रहरु अरु पनि धेरै छन् । यहि अवस्थाका कारणले नै महासन्धिका पक्षराष्ट्रहरुको मेक्सिकोमा सम्पन्न १६औँ सम्मेलनले हरित जलवायु कोष (ग्रीन क्लाइमेट फण्ड) को स्थापना गरेको हो जसले विकासोन्मुख देशहरुमा जलवायु परिवर्तन सम्बन्धि नीति, कार्यक्रम र परियोजनाहरु सञ्चालन गर्न वित्तिय सहयोग गर्नेछ ।
नेपालले पेश गरेको उक्त प्रतिबद्धता अनुसार जलवायु परिवर्तन न्युनिकरण गर्न नेपालले गर्ने कार्यहरुमा, स्वच्छ उर्जा प्रवर्धन गर्ने योजना अनुरुप आगामी सन् २०२० सम्ममा चार हजार मेगावाट जलविद्युत र सन् २०३० सम्ममा बाह्र हजार मेगावाट जलविद्युत र दुई हजार एक सय मेगावाट सौर्य उर्जा उत्पादन गर्ने लक्ष राखेको छ । त्यसैगरि कूल भूभागको ४० प्रतिशत क्षेत्र वनको रुपमा कायम राख्ने लक्ष्य राखेको छ । यद्यपि पछिल्लो बन श्रोत सर्बेक्षण (२०१०–२०१४) को तथ्यांक अनुसार नेपालको लगभग ४५ प्रतिशत भूभाग वन क्षेत्रले ओगटिसकेको छ । सोही योजनाको दीर्घकालीन सोच अनुरुप सन् २०५० सम्ममा नेपालको ८० प्रतिशत विद्युत नविकरणीय उर्जामार्फत उत्पादन गर्ने र जैविक इन्धनको प्रयोगमा ५० प्रतिशतले कमी ल्याउने लक्ष प्रस्तुत गरिएको छ । वन क्षेत्र रणनीति (सन् २०१६–२०२५) ले पनि नेपालको कार्वन मौज्दातलाई सन् २०२५ सम्ममा, सन् २०१५ को तुलनामा पाँच प्रतिशतले बृद्धि गर्ने लक्ष राखेको छ ।

बर्तमान अवस्था र अबको बाटो
यी सब योजनाअनुुसार काम गरेर नेपालले विश्वब्यापी हरितगृह ग्याँसको उत्सर्जनमा गरिरहेको योगदानलाई आधा घटाएछ भने पनि त्यो ज्यादै नगन्य मात्र हुन आउछ । नेपालले वर्षभरिमा गर्ने उत्सर्जनभन्दा त विकसित कुनै एउटा देशले एक दिनमा गर्ने उत्सर्जन धेरै हुन्छ । तर पनि तिनै विकसित देशहरु कसको धेरै जिम्मेवारी हो र उत्सर्जन न्युनिकरणमा कसले धेरै जिम्मेवारी वहन गर्नुपर्ने हो भनेर एक आपसमा दोषारोपण गर्नमै व्यस्त रहन्छन् । अनि बाध्यकारी सम्झौतामा आफूहरु हस्ताक्षर नगर्ने अनेक जाल रच्छन् । पेरिस सम्झौतामा निकारागुवाले हस्ताक्षर नगरेको पनि, विकसित मुलुकहरुले गर्नुपर्ने उत्सर्जन न्युनिकरण प्रतिबद्धता बाध्यकारी नभएको भनेर नै हो, उसले आफूले चाहेजति उत्सर्जन गर्न पाउनुपर्छ भनेर होइन । हरितगृह ग्याँस उत्सर्जनमा उसको योगदान त नेपालको भन्दा पनि कम छ । खासमा नेपालले समर्थन गर्नुपर्ने त निकारागुवालाई हो । क्योटो अभिसन्धिले पनि तोकिएको समयमा न त अपेक्षित सफलता हाँसिल गर्न सक्यो, उल्टै दोहा संसोधन पछि अभिसन्धि अनुमोदन गरेका केहि राष्ट्रहरु समेत बाहिरिए । अमेरिका बाहिरको बाहिरै रह्यो, तोकिएको सिमाभन्दा बढि उत्सर्जन गर्नेहरु गरेको गर्यै भए, दोहा संशोधन पछि बस्न मन नलाग्नेहरु बाहिरिए, मन लाग्नेहरु सन् २०२० सम्मको लक्ष्य राखेर हिँडिरहेका छन् । यस्तो जसले जे मन लाग्यो त्यही गर्न पाउने सन्धि सम्झौताको के अर्थ र ? पेरिस सम्झौताको हालत पनि क्योटो अभिसन्धिको जस्तै नहोला भनेर विश्वस्त हुन सकिने प्रशस्त आधारहरु देखिँदैनन् । विश्वकै दोश्रो ठूलो प्रदुषक अमेरिका बाहिरिइ सक्यो, पक्षराष्ट्रहरुले गर्ने उत्सर्जन कटौतीको प्रतिबद्धता स्वैच्छिक मात्र हो, बाध्यकारि होइन र उनीहरुले त्यो प्रतिबद्धता पूरा नगरेपनि केहि कारवाहि हुनेछैन । केहि दिनअघि, पेरिस सम्झौताबाट अमेरिकाको बहिर्गमन र नेपालमा त्यसको प्रभाव विषयक एक अन्तर्किया कार्यक्रममा जलवायु परिवर्तन महाशाखा प्रमूख डा. रामप्रसाद लम्सालले भन्नुभयो – “अमेरिकाले सिधै हाम्रो खातामा पैसा हालिदिने होइन, एलडिसि फण्डमा सहयोग गर्ने हो । त्यस्तो सहयोग गर्ने मुलुकहरु अरु पनि छन्, आत्तिनु पर्दैन।”
हामीलाई आउनुपर्ने पैसा आइहाल्छ भन्दैमा सम्झौताबाट जो बाहिरिएपनि हामीलाई केहि फरक पर्दैन भन्नु त्यत्ति बुद्धिमत्तापूर्ण नहोला । अमेरिका सम्झौताभित्र रहँदा तापक्रम वृद्धिलाई २ डिग्री तल राख्न सकिन्थ्यो भने ऊ बाहिरिँदा त्यो केहि मात्रामा बढ्ने पक्का छ । अनि त्यहि कोषको त्यत्तिनै रकमले गरिने अनुकुलनका कार्यक्रमहरुको प्रभाव पनि त घट्छ । अमेरिका बाहिरियो भनेर जलवायु कोषले सन् २०२० पछि वार्षिक रुपमा सहयोग गर्ने १ खर्ब डलरको सिमा त बढाएको छैन । सबै कुरालाई पैसासँग मात्र तुलना गरेर हेर्न भएन । अनुकुलनता भन्दा न्युनिकरण राम्रो उपाय हो । त्यसो त, तिमीहरुलाई चाहिने जति पैसा दिन्छौँ र हामीले चाहेजति हरितगृह ग्याँस उत्सर्जन गर्छौ भन्दै अन्य प्रमूख प्रदुषकहरु पनि बाहिरिने हो भने पृथ्विको भविष्य कता जाला ? हामीले त अहिलेसम्म हामीलाई कति पैसा आउँछ, हाम्रो देशलाई कति फाइदा हुुन्छ भनेर नाफा घाटाको हिसाबकिताब मात्र गरिरहे जस्तो लाग्छ । ती कृयाकलापहरुबाट वातावरणलाई हुने फाइदा वा नोक्सानीहरु चाहिँ के के हुन सक्छन् भनेर पनि सोच्नु पर्ने हो कि ।
“न्युनिकरणका लागि सकेसम्म प्रयास त हामीले पनि गरिरहेका छौँ नि । अनुकुलनका लागि भनेर तिमीहरुले दिने आर्थिक सहयोग हामीलाई चाहिँदैन । यदि जलवायु परिवर्तनप्रति तिमीहरु साँच्चै गम्भीर छौ भने हामीलाई छुट्याएको सहयोग रकम आफैँ खर्च गरेर तिमीहरुले गरिरहेको उत्सर्जनमा उल्लेख्य कटौती गर ता कि हामीले परिवर्तनका असरहरुसँग जुध्न अनुकुलनका कार्यक्रमहरु नै गर्न नपरोस् ।”- भनेर हामीले विकसित मुलुकहरुलाई दवाब दिन सक्ने दिन कहिल्यै आउला ? पेरिस सम्झौतामा निकारागुवा प्रस्तुत भएजस्तैगरि ।?

Shall I Breathe?

Shall I breathe!

Even masks are terrified with pollution in #Kathmandu #Dustmandu

What do you think is the easiest task? Breathing? That is what I find the most difficult one in Kathmandu. Locality matters!

Air pollution is a major environmental and ultimately a health problem in developed as well as developing cities. Kathmandu is not an exception. Instead, Kathmandu has gotten some new names because of dust and air pollution. Dustmandu and Maskmandu are the commonest ones. A recent analysis of air pollution in Kathmandu for the period of one month, Magh, showed that, the 24-hour daily averages of the PM2.5 (Particulate Matter of less than 2.5 micrometre diameter) concentration in Kathmandu atmosphere were beyond the government standard of 40 micrograms per cubic metre, forget about the World Health Organization (WHO) standard of 25 micrograms per cubic metre.

At first, what is very difficult for me to understand is how the government standard becomes 60 per cent higher than the WHO standard. Is it because Gorkhalis are brave enough to tolerate higher levels of pollution than the WHO standard? If so, I am not a Gorkhali. Or I am an exceptional one!

The current analyses on air pollution are being done only on the PM2.5 concentration basis. What about other pollutants such as ground-level ozone, Nitrogen dioxide (NO2), Sulfur dioxide (SO2) and Carbon monoxide (CO)? Are these pollutants within the recommended standard? What would be the quality of air if the impact of these pollutants is also included in determining the air quality of Kathmandu Valley? A recent WHO report states that, of the 1.7 million child deaths every year, five hundred seventy thousand children under five year of age die from respiratory infections attributable to indoor and outdoor air pollution. Though exact figure of such death is not available for Kathmandu, we can easily assume that such death is high here as Kathmandu has been ranked as the seventh worst polluted cities in the world in terms of air quality recently. How can we expect a high number of children to survive who get born in the seventh worst polluted city in the world and inhale the poisonous air since their first breathe?

Suggestions you will get to avoid the pollution in Kathmandu are so ridiculous – avoid all sports activities, do physical activities only after noon, don’t go for a morning or evening walk as air pollution is higher in the morning and in the evening! Are these pragmatic suggestions? We have to wait till noon for any physical activities? Sounds like there will be suggestions like “Don’t breathe wherever and whenever you like!” in the near future. What I have understood is that the static blanket of polluted air near the earth’s surface in the morning gets dispersed as a result of human and vehicular movements. To some extent, the solar radiation helps. But if nobody comes out of their house till noon, does the air quality automatically improve as such? I don’t think so. And is it ‘ethical’ to prevent children from going outside and playing? Can we expect them to be healthy that way? I am quite confused if these suggestions are intended to prepare healthy or ailing citizens. Is it practicable to put a mask on a two-year child while carrying him out of the house? According to news reports, the ordinary, cheap cloth masks that people generally put on in Kathmandu are also ineffective against the pollutant particles. According to researches, the oldest and the youngest are the most affected people due to air pollution. We can somehow accuse the oldest generation for not acting to curb pollution earlier. But what crime has a newborn done to inhale poisonous air since his/her first breath? The pollution levels are recorded and published; not forecasted so that we can avoid the peak hours of pollution every day.

The only panacea is – cleaning the atmosphere. The recent move to ban the twenty-year-old vehicles is a good one. According to a BBC report, the brick kilns of the valley destroyed by the 2015 earthquake are being rebuilt using new technology that emits less polluting soot and smoke. For widening the road, the government cut so many green trees in many parts of the ring road some years ago, but when it comes to curbing pollution it does not plant trees. Trees are reported to have a significant impact in reducing the atmospheric pollution. What is preventing the government for large roadside plantations? Are we only focusing on development with no concerns about the environment? Can such development be sustainable? What is the use of a city with roads of multiple lanes and skyscrapers where you have to fear for ‘breathing’? 

Twitter: @AacharyaAaditya