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 ।

Advertisements

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=

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