Regular monitoring of air quality is imperative as the level of air pollution directly impacts population health. Findings from studies and reports from the past have revealed serious concerns regarding outdoor air quality in Kathmandu Valley. After six years in operation during 2002-2007, government managed fully functional outdoor air quality monitoring stations in the Valley ceased to operate. What are the reasons behind the abrupt discontinuity of the monitoring stations? While the government promise to resume the operation of the monitoring stations, population of the Valley is suffering, the extent of which is unknown. Who are responsible for the delay? What are the true reasons for this delay in resuming the operation? What is the government actually doing to solve the problem?
Based on many in-depth interviews conducted with concerned authorities as well as going through various reports, the study finds that since 2006, the Ministry of Environment (now with Ministry of Environment, Science, and Technology) was and is the sole institution responsible for the funding and management of the air quality monitoring stations in the Kathmandu Valley. Though the reasons cited by the Ministry for the discontinuation of the monitoring stations, namely long hours of power cuts and difficulty in procuring spare parts, are true at the beginning, the study finds, that alternative solutions in recharging the batteries as well as making efforts for speeding the process of procurement was possible. The study concludes that lack of leadership at the Ministry, the lack of coordination between involved organizations, the lack of long term planning to ensure regular and continued operation, dependence on external donation and sheer apathy towards environmental issues by the leadership and personnel at the Ministry are the main causes of the discontinuation as well as the speedy resumptions of the monitoring stations.
The study recommends that the Ministry should take the issue seriously, specially, considering serious impact that air pollution can have on the health of the population living in the same environment, and make swift decisions to restart the monitoring stations. Conducting research on the health impacts of air pollution is the next essential step forward for which the Ministry should readily make all the data available. And finally, it is the role of public and the media to be more vocal on such issues that are directly or indirectly linked with the population’s well being.
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