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Effect On Air Pollution Of Kathmandu Valley

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Sciences
Wordcount: 5353 words Published: 18th May 2017

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Clean air is necessary for human health. Human body needs approximately 25 kg of air per day to keep up its requirement of oxygen (CEN, 2002). It replicates signifies the importance of air to human beings and any contamination in the air will have a direct impact on our health. Pure air consists 21% of oxygen 78% of nitrogen and 1% other gases. If the air composition is altered by the increase in concentration of certain gases or by intrusion of non-gaseous components like particulate matters, then the air is understood to be polluted and the components that alter the inherent compositional property of air are termed as air pollutants. Air pollution affects almost all aspects of the environment including the biota and the physical components where they strive on. A variety of sources have been identified as the components of the air pollution and they include both the natural and anthropogenic sources of origin; however, the anthropogenic sources of air pollution are more pronounced. Anthropogenic air pollutants are more harmful and include Particulate matter (PM), Sulphur Dioxide (SO2), Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), Carbon monoxide (CO), Lead (Pb), Ozone (O3) and Hydrocarbons (HCs). (CEN, 2002)

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Air pollution is a big issue all over the world mainly in urban areas because of fossil fuel driven transportation system.. Besides this, the unmanaged booming of urban settlements has helped to increase the concentration of air pollutants by limiting their horizontal dispersion thereby interfering with the health of people. Mainly, children, elderly and the patients of lungs and heart are more vulnerable to the effects of air pollution. According to Asian Development Bank (2001), in the South Asian Cities, approximately 100,000 premature deaths every year is caused by the detrimental effects of air pollution.

Air Pollution in Kathmandu

The issue of air pollution in Kathmandu Valley is continuously drawing the attention of concerned bodies and the gravity of the problem is growing year by year. Owing to the topography of Kathmandu Valley, growing population, haphazard urbanization and increase in vehicle density imparted as an effect of affluence and need to serve the growing population, the valley has been facing worse situation of ambient air every year. However, the issue of air pollution in Kathmandu Valley doesn’t bear a long history as the development of road networks and history of transportation system in the valley do not have the long history either. Many researches and the discourse held within the country on air pollution has identified the transportation system and linked with it, the poor situation of the infrastructure as the root causes of air pollution in Kathmandu Valley. Regarding the dominant air pollutant of Kathmandu, it is Particulate Matter (PM), the concentration of which is observed higher during night in the winter due to the creation of inversion layer which acts as the blanket to trap pollutants. The PM concentration in Kathmandu has always exceeded the World Health Organization (WHO) standard and National Ambient Air Quality Standard of Nepal. Besides particulate matters (PM10 and PM2.5) the concentration of other pollutants are not a major issue in Kathmandu Valley. Gaseous pollutants such as NO2 and SO2 are generally within standards but the concentration of NO2 is fairly high in areas with heavy traffic and this has the potential of future increase with further increase in number of vehicles operating within the valley. Another potential concern is the concentration of air toxins such as benzene and poly aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). The concentration of benzene is within national standards but the national standard of 20µg/m3 is itself fairly high. Although Nepal does not have any standards for PAH, monitoring done in 2003 indicated fairly high levels of these pollutants in Kathmandu Valley. (ICIMOD, 2007)

PM2.5 is considered to be more hazardous than PM10. Although Nepal does not have any standards for PM2.5, some monitoring has been carried out for PM2.5 in Kathmandu Valley. (ICIMOD, 2007)

Statement of Problem

Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal is the focus of all the major facets of the country, namely economy, tourism, culture, politics, administration and natural environment.

Due to the above reasons, the population of Kathmandu valley is increasing day by day. Apart from this, the infrastructure development has never been able to keep up with the unmanaged and accelerating growth. As a result, this has led to increase in slums, inadequate and polluted drinking water supply, polluted air to breathe, haphazard manner of dumping the solid waste in the neighborhoods.

Every people have right to breath clean air. Increase in population, vehicular fleet, energy consumption and industries, mainly brick industries have contributed to degrade air quality in Kathmandu valley. Overall, the bowl or the cup shaped topography of the valley also has prevented the dispersion of air pollutants to longer distances.

Research questions:

The research will address following issues:

1. What is the main air pollution facing by local people in Kathmandu valley?

2. What are the main institutional changes that have been made to control the air pollution?

3. What are strength and weakness of these institutional changes?

4. What further policy measures should be instituted to reduce air pollution to acceptable levels?

2. Background

Kathmandu is the capital city of Nepal. The Kathmandu valley consists of three major cities i.e Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur. Kathmandu Valley is situated in 27° 37’30” N and 27° 45’0″ N latitude and 85° 15´0″ E and 85° 22´30″ E longitude. And the Kathmandu valley is located at an altitude of 1350meters. The Kathmandu valley is oval shaped and surrounded by high hill range. And the area of Kathmandu valley is 340 sq.km and the total population of Kathmandu valley is 1,442,271(CBS 2001). The climate of Kathmandu valley is sub tropical temperate. Along with it have four seasons pre-monsoon, monsoon, post monsoon and winter. In general, average temperature in summer is 32°c and in winter is 5°c. Due to economic activity and high chances of opportunities and facilities many people from all around the country has been migrated in the Kathmandu valley and is been highly dense. Air pollution in the Kathmandu Valley has been one of the major problems. It can be said that air pollution started as the invention of road networks and automobiles.

High population with unplanned and unmanaged urbanization, rapid increasing of automobiles, vehicles and industries are the factors in the causes of air pollution.


(Source: http://www.tsiindia.com/img/nepal_map.gif, date:30th November 2010)

According to the presentation given by traffic police, road length per traffic police has improved since 1995 from 2.3 km to 1.6 km that is good sign for better traffic management. Nevertheless, due to enormous rise in the number of vehicles in Kathmandu, the traffic police are laden with responsibilities of higher number of vehicles than they had to be for 1995. From 2002 to 2009, the total number of vehicles in Bagmati zone increased by 1.25 times than that was before 2002 from 176415 to 396151. The statistics show that the vehicles has progressively increased from 2002 to 2009, the only exception being at 2006/07 probably due to the cause of contemporary political situation. The number of vehicles for individual traffic police has increased from 165 in 1995 to 415 in 2008 i.e. more than 2.5 times. In reality, the number of vehicles a traffic police should look for is even higher because not all the traffic police within Kathmandu are in duty at the same time during a day.

In the context of road length and vehicle numbers, the nominal increase in road length has resulted in crowding of roads. The population density per kilometer road length during 1995 was 1668 that rose to 2353 in 2008 while, the number of vehicles per kilometer road length in Kathmandu was 70 in 1995 that has risen by about four times i.e. 255 in 2008. Moreover, in case of Kathmandu the traffic congestion, in practice, is observed due to the inadequate road width and lack of proper identification of the road lane for vehicles moving from the opposite directions. The proper traffic management can thus be initiated with the demarcation of lane, which can, as additional benefit, reduce the vehicle collision and traffic accident.

Figure : Comparison on Transportation Attributes for 1995 and 2005

(Source: Valley Traffic Control, 2009 where Blue colour shows 1995 and red is 2005)

Causes of Air pollution:

If any unwanted particles mixed in the air, it is called air pollution. It can cause for both human

Well as environment also. Air pollutants can be in the form of solid particles, liquid as well as

gas form. They are may be either natural or artificial. Main artificial air pollutants are Sulfur

Oxides, Nitrogen Oxides, Carbon monoxide, Carbon dioxide, Volatile organic compounds,

Particulate matters, ground ozone, ammonia etc. (Wikipedia).

Sources of artificial air pollution are as follows:

i) Rapid Urbanization

ii) Vehicular emission

iii) Industrial growth

iv) Unmanaged disposal of waste etc.


3.1 Concept of Institution:

An institution is any structure or mechanism of social order or it may bee said as a set of some formal rules, regulation and norms of some formal rules, regulation and norms formulated to establish the smooth running society or to govern the behavior of human being in the society. Institutions are formed to formalize the society and to show the human being to act as a social animal. It is the outcome of the society and can be said as the need in the human community to harmonize the behavior of the people. “The term institution is commonly applied to customs and behavior patterns important to a society, as well as to particular formal organizations of government and public service” (Stanford Encyclopedia: social institutions).

“Although individual, formal organizations, commonly identifies as “Institution” may be deliberately and intentionally created by people, the development and functioning of institutions in society in general may be regarded as an instance of emergency, that is institution arise, develop and function in a pattern of social self organizations, which goes beyond the conscious intentions of the individual human involved” (http://en .wikipedia.org/wiki/institution#aspects_of_institutions, 28th nov. 2010). The institution that has been established to enhance the quality of ambient air quality in Kathmandu is the outcome of the result from the air pollution. Those are not demand of the people but the result of the problem. The banning of two stroke vehicles in Kathmandu, banning of brick kiln factories was not in favor of people. It just hit on the head of the poor people in the society, but that was the outcomes of the problems not as the intentional outcomes.

3.2 Resource Use and Resource Regimes:

Those goods which consists of a natural or human made resource system whose size or characteristics makes it costly but not impossible to exclude the people from getting benefits from its use are generally known as common-pool resource (CPR) or it may be called as common-property resources. Since the common-pool resources are open access, there is the problem off congestion or over use. Unlike public goods, they are subtractable. A common pool resource for example air is a large stock but only provides the limited quantity of extractable unit and over use will create problems as we are here to discuss the air pollution in Kathmandu. “A common property regime is a particular social arrangement regulating the preservation, maintenance, and consumption of a common pool resource. The use of the term “Common property resource” to designate a type of good has been critized, because common pool resource is not necessarily governed by common property regimes.”(http://en.wikkipedia.org/wiki/common/pool/resource,date26th Nov.2010).

Example may be taken as the air in Kathmandu which is the common pool resources. It allows certain amount of pollutants but beyond this the gets polluted. There will be various consequences as it gets polluted. Because the core resource is vulnerable, it is subjected to congestion, over use and ultimately pollution. Any system has their own certain capacity to cope with the change and beyond that the system gets disturb and in case off air in Kathmandu, situation came due to the dramatic increase in population and excessive use of vehicles that run by the fossil-fuels. The use of common pool resources can be continuously done as the loop if they are managed properly and carefully exploited because they form the positive feedback loop since they are stock variable but the haphazard use of it deteriorates the stock and disrupt the flow variable for good.

3.2.1 Resource Use in Kathmandu:

Open access


Effect of distribution

No rules

As shown in the above figure, the air in the Kathmandu was open access and there was no any rules concerning the use of it and the ownership for it. As the time passes, there araised several agents and market introduced. The outcome of the dramatic increase in the population in the city results in the excessive use of vehicles for the transportation system. Unfortunately those vehicles are run by fossil fuel which when used emit air pollutant in the atmosphere. So there is the pollution problem in the valley. Now government has their head towards it and they are formulating institution to enhance thee quality of it.

Though the air in the valley is open access but there are some rules concerning the use of it. Thee government have introduced green tax, banning of diesel running three wheelers etc. Now the system approaches where it is still the open access but with market, shown in the figure above. There are some rules concerning the use of it and hence thee distributional have came into action in this case.

3.3 Framework for Analyzing for resource use problem

Air in the Kathmandu valley is common property and is open access. At the time passes, the technology has developed as well as the population of city increase dramatically. This is partly due the centralization and civil war in Nepal. “If the natural resources was vast compare to the capacity of people to use it, there could be no problem” (vatn, 2005), but here the thing is just opposite to that.


Attributes of the resources:


-resource use

-state of resource

Agents and aagents choices

Patterns of interaction

Institutions- regimes



Formal rules

(Source: Vatn, 2005,)

(Figure: Framework for analyzing resource use problems)

Finally this aspect has influence has chose new institution and government of Nepal formulated some rules and regulation for the enhancement of air quality in Kathmandu valley. Along with this, different Medias, NGOs, INGOs are involved to motivate people regarding air pollution. The institution such as banning of two stock vehicles, relocation of Himal cement factory, introduction of green tax was introduced.

Although there are many such many rules regulation and acts came into existence but some the institution lack third party control system. The government formulated the rules and people were not seemed to walk along with this change. Since there was lack of third party no body were there to check and control the implementation of such policies.

“With regards to institution we may also distinguish between operational rules, rules concerning the defining of operation rules and finally external arrangement / rules. The operational rule defines the everyday regulation regimes”. (Vatn, 2005).

The next important factor to take into consideration is agents and agent’s choice. Here the structure of institution greatly helps to motivate the people. Institution in Nepal was so formed that people were motivated and aware of air pollution and its impact to some extent. But the technology did not fit the resource use. As being the developing county the people do not have any option rather than to use fissile fuels as the main source of energy for the transportation system. At the same time dramatic increase in population in the city force to consume more fuel energy and Kathmandu valley stood first in position in term of vehicle registration in Nepal. So the air being the open access was very vulnerable to risk.

Eventually due interaction of technology and choice of agents the problem of air pollution came in the valley. There difficulties are mainly due to four factors. Basically regime is not able to motivate correlation action in accordance with what is demanded given resource characteristic, technology, number of agents and corruption by the government official. Corruption is so deep rooted that one can easily break up the institution formulated by the state. This can be seen as the drawback of the system or the lack of motivation.

“If outcomes are not in accordance what is expected or wanted agents can change institutional structures. In principal this may occur at all level, with regards to conventions, norms and formal rules” (Vatn, 2005). However, changing such rules and regulation certainly need considerable time and result of such change to the institution can only be noticed after some period of time.

3.4 Air as a common pool resource in Kathmandu

Goods or resources can be generally classified into two groups. They are Excludable or Non-excludable and Rivalry or Non Rivalry. When a person or a firm can set a barrier on his/her property like land to prevent the use of it by other are called excludable goods and those where the demarcation is not possible are called non-excludable goods. When the goods at one time prevent the use off same good simultaneously by other is called rivalry goods and on the other hand, just like air, the of which can never stop other to use it at the same time is called non-rivalry goods or resource.

Exclusion costs (TCs)

Low High






Rivalry in use or

consumption No

(Source: Vatn, 2005, pp 263)

(Fig: Characterization of resources or goods according to the cost of exclusion and rivalry in use or consumption).

“While goods of type I are typically labeled’ Private goods, type II and type IV are called “goods” and “public goods”, respectively. With regards to type III, “common-pool-resource”is an often used concept. In the tradition of leaping of resource characteristics to regime implication, type I is often equated with private property and markets, II with clubs, III with standard common property or open access and IV with state/public property”. (Vatn, 2005, pp 263)

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3.4.1 Rivalry goods

As we are discussing about the in the Kathmandu valley, it can bee seen that the resource is rivalry type. In Kathmandu valley, different types of factories, industries, vehicles are continuously meeting the air pollutant which ultimately invited the pollution problem and all the citizens are suffering from it. “In the case of rival goods, the core problem is that of external effect. This is typically the case for many environmental resources where use-at least beyond the certain level-reduce its quantity and/or quality” (Vatn, 2005, pp263). Therefore air in case of Kathmandu valley can be considered as rival goods.

3.4.2 Non-Excludable goods

When the goods are private or owned by certain people or organization, than the demarcation is very easy that means transaction cost is very low. But when thee goods or resources are open access or common property, the exclusion cost is very high because the typical demarcation is not possible. In this case, air is common property and everybody in the city can use it undoubtly and the transaction cost is very high

3.5 Mechanism to reduce air pollution:

The pollution problem in Kathmandu can be seen as the outcome of excessive energy used and technological development. This can simply be framed as follows:




3.5.1 Taxation input

Basically the major pollution problem in the valley is due to the excessive use of the vehicles which are runes by the petroleum products. So air pollution can be reduced by introducing the tax in the fossil fuel. This is the best way because there is low transaction cost in doing so. High tax in the fule wills automatically reduce the use of private vehicles and the public vehicles uses will be increased to the considerable extent.

3.5.2 Taxation in production and technology

On the other hand, this can be done by introducing the tax in the technology that means motor car, private vehicles, and factories, industries which use energy and emit the pollutants in the air and also providing the subsidy to those who use bicycle or electronic means of transportation. As the government of Nepal is doing , banning of diesel running three wheelers, two stock vehicles are also the way to enhance the air quality to some extent. This is a very simple way and there is low transaction cost in introduction such institutions but this dominantly hit the poor in the society.

3.5.3 Taxation in Output

There is another way of controlling the air pollution but the transaction cost in very high in doing so. The introduction of emission tax can be very good way to enhance the air quality. Here the transaction cost will be fairly very high.

4. Methods

For fulfilling the study objectives, a systematic study approach was followed. The major base for research founded with the collection of relevant secondary data and information from various national and international sources. The field-based study could not be done.

The following process are done:

Literature Review

Secondary Data Collection

Data Analysis

Draft Report Preparation

Final Report


5. Analysis

Increasing number of vehicles without extension of roads is diagnosed to be the major problem in Kathmandu. The growth of the vehicles in Kathmandu is a major concern to traffic police, vehicle drivers, and pedestrians. From the result, it is observed that the road length of Kathmandu is increasing very nominally while the numbers of vehicles are increasing with an exceptional growth rate and it ultimately help to increase air pollution.

5.1 Causes of Air Pollution

Air pollution causes by both anthropogenic as well as natural sources. Anthropogenic source is the main cause in Kathmandu valley than that of natural source. Mainly fossil fuel combustion and other activities like brick factories, unmanaged road system, stone grinding factories are added pollution. Vehicle system is the main source to emit carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxide. Approximately 67 percent of Particulate matter is supplied by vehicular emission in Kathmandu valley.

5.1.1 Sources of air pollution

Sources of air pollution are of two types: Natural and artificial.

Main sources of artificial air pollution are as follows:

A) Rapid Urbanization:

Kathmandu valley has very fertile land, but nowadays it is known as unmanaged urban area. The main cause of this is Kathmandu-centric development and migration of people due to insurgency and political conflict. It is the biggest city of the Nepal and about 20 percent urban people live here. The population increase rate here is as twice as national rate of 2.2%. (ICIMOD, 2007).

B) Vehicular Emission:

It is the main source for air pollution. According to the Department of Transportation and Management, Government of Nepal, the first bus service in Nepal commenced in1957 and since then the fleet has grown substantially. The cumulative vehicular number in Bagmati zone (administrative zone where the vehicles of Kathmandu Valley are registered) was 176,415 in 2001 and it reached 396,151 in 2008. Most of the vehicles registered in Bagmati zone is used in Kathmandu valley. This record shows the rapid increment of vehicles in Kathmandu valley. Vehicle number in Kathmandu has been increasing rapidly in the last five years.

C) Industrial Emissions:

About two-fifth industries in Nepal are located in Kathmandu valley. According to the Department of Cottage and small industries, there were 14,971 up to 2006. Out of them, 111 are brick kilns and 89 are stone crushers. They contribute 14% of the total particulate matter in Kathmandu valley. Management of solid waste is another problem which also causes air pollution and vulnerable to health. (ICIMOD,2007)

5.1.2 Effects of air pollution

The effect of air pollution is high in human health. High exposure in air pollution may cause chronic bronchitis, lung cancer, asthma and other respiratory problems. It also affects cardio vascular system and nervous system (Lahiri, 2003). Particulate matter is the main problem of Kathmandu, which not only affects the health but also the tourism industry. Due to the poor health, human productivity is also loss. All these impacts finally affect the economic system of individual as well as of state.

The long term study of health impact due to air pollution is yet to be conducted in Kathmandu Valley. However, Child Workers in Nepal Concerned Centre (CWIN) surveyed about 60 children who were working as staffs on three-wheelers in valley and result showed that 84% staffs were suffering from eye problem, 82% chest pains, 66% were suffering from coughs and 58% by headaches. Similarly 45% children were suffering by respiratory problem.

Shakya S conducted a study incorporating questionnaires to the traffic police. He observed that out of 90 traffic police, most of them were suffering from diseases related to nervous and respiratory systems. Similarly, Clean Energy Nepal (CEN) also did a questionnaire survey for the people who live near to the brick industries and in control area. The study revealed that 54% out of surveyed people near to the brick kiln were suffering from respiratory problem and 41% people in the control area were affected by respiratory disorder.

The other problems due to air pollution are as follows:

Acid rain

Ozone layer depletion

Reduction of visibility

In context of Kathmandu, the issues of acid rain and ozone layer depletion are not very significant as both of these issues are the outcomes of the heavy industrial pollution. The formation of the photochemical smog and acid droplets due to hydration of the SOx and NOx are not well defined in the pollution status of the ambient air of Kathmandu. As mentioned in the earlier sections the concentrations of both these gases are well below the standards set by the Government of Nepal and WHO. However, regarding the visibility the problem perpetuates in Kathmandu during all seasons with even more pronounced effects during the winters when temperature inversion takes place. The visibility problem is basically caused by the particulate matters and the problem subsides only during the periods of heavy rainfall.

5.2. Policies and institutional arrangements for managing emissions from motor vehicles:

A number of programs have been done to fight against the air pollution in Kathmandu Valley. Some are given below.

• In 1991, government stopped to register three-wheelers. It was the first response related to air pollution of Kathmandu valley.

• In 1994, government place emission standards for in-use vehicles. Green stickers were given those vehicles which met emission values.

• Ministry of Population and Environment was established in 1995.

• Environmet Protection Act 2000 and Rules were enacted in 1997.

• In 1998, the government formulated NVMES in 2000; these standards, equivalent to EURO-I emission norms, went into effect from January 2000. All new means of transportation imported from abroad since then have had to meet the terms.

• In 1997 the government decided to provide financial support to battery-operated electric three-wheelers. It was given in the form of tax breaks.

• In 1999, diesel three-wheelers were banned in Kathmandu Valley. Similarly it was banned in other cities also. Vehicle owners were given tax incentive to buy new vehicles.

• In November 2000, the government decided to ban public vehicles older than 20 years. Similarly it banned all two stroke vehicle in Kathmandu Valley. The policy was followed from 16 November, 2001. Government tried to follow this rule strictly but was unable to put into practice the decision.

• In late 2000, two-stroke motorcycle registration was restricted.

• The vehicle run by LPG and CPG (compressed natural gas) was improved from 2000.

• In 2001, government decided adds 10% extra tax for the vehicle having older than 15 years. This is the first case that government linked between tax and vehicle age. It helped to discourage the use of older vehicles.

• In 2001, The National Transport Policy was formulated. This policy is directly related to clean transportation system.

• In 2003, the National Ambient Air Quality System for various air pollutants was established.

• Two-stroke three-wheeler vehicles were banned from 2004 in the Kathmandu Valley.

• Government closed Himal Cement Factory to control the air pollution which was situated near the valley.

(Source: Dahal, 2006)

Government has formulated and applied many rules and regulations to address the air pollution of Kathmandu valley, but the graph below shows that the main air pollutants Total Suspended Particulates (Particulate matters) is increasing every year.

(Source: MoEST Report 2006)

5.3. Strength and weakness of these institutional changes:

It is found that reforms in existing institutional set up is likely to bring some positive impact on the air quality of Kathmandu valley. Removing two stroke vehicles from the valley have reduced the air pollution as well as noise pollution. It has also helped to reduce the energy consumption because the two stroke vehicles use more fuel than other. However, the rules and regulations are no implemented because of the political instability and corruptions. The economic condition of the country has also impacted on the implementation the institutions because the government has not allocated sufficient fund for environment. In Nepal there is separate ministry dealing with environment (Ministry of Environment), however, the establishment of the local authority like environment department and its associated regional and district bodies, to effectively deal with the problems related to environment has not been materialized yet, even after more than a decade has passed with the establishment of environment ministry. The establishment of environment department is still in the stage of planning and government has made efforts to establish it in near future, but according to the government financial constraint


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