5th June, Archana Yadav/Mamta Verma
World Environment Day is the United Nations day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action to protect our environment. Since it began in 1974, the event has grown to become a global platform for public outreach that is widely celebrated in over 100 countries. World Environment Day is the “people’s day” for doing something to take care of the Earth. That “something” can be local, national or global. It can be a solo action or involve a crowd. Everyone is free to choose.
The theme Each World Environment Day is organized around a theme that draws attention to a particularly pressing environmental concern. The theme for 2019 is “Air pollution”.
Nepal’s performance seems to be worst when it comes to protecting environment and combating air pollution. Nepal is among the bottom five countries on the Environmental Performance Index 2018, plummeting 27 points from 149 in 2016, according to a biennial report by Yale and Columbia Universities along with the World Economic Forum.
Nepal’s air quality was recently reported as the worst in the South Asia region. Air pollution in Nepal, particularly in the Kathmandu Valley, has emerged as a serious environmental health risk. Most of air pollution-related deaths are from non-communicable diseases and in terms of global disease burden, air pollution is the cause of over one-third deaths from stroke, lung cancer and chronic respiratory diseases, says the WHO. One-quarter of deaths occur due to ischemic heart disease. According to a WHO report, nearly 740 people died from acute lower respiratory infection, 1,770 from chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, 932 from lung cancer, 3,328 from ischemic heart disease and 3,183 from stroke in Nepal in 2016.
The EPI report says low scores on the index are indicative of the need for national sustainability efforts on a number of fronts, especially cleaning up air quality, protecting biodiversity, and reducing green-house gas emissions, according to researchers. In a country like Nepal, low scores have been attributed to weak governance, lack of proper policies and non-implementation of programmes.
While air pollution spares none, children under the age of five with their young organs, immune systems and brains are particularly vulnerable at that stage of development. Two reports from the WHO last year offered new insights into how serious a risk
the rising air pollution poses. Lack of sanitation, unsafe water and air pollution claim 1.7 million young lives every year. We are spending a lot of money for the construction of roads, where more vehicles will emit more smoke, but we have failed to pay attention to one of the major serious health concerns — air pollution.
Mass transportation system should be the focus of the government. Similarly, electric vehicles should be promoted. Brick kilns around the Capital city are a major contributor to air pollution. Concrete initiatives should be taken to address this issue.
Government should also make implementation and monitoring teams more effective to make sure the policy and laws are not violated and polluters are made to pay for the damage to human health and the environment.
As a signatory to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which includes several ambitious targets to reduce air pollution related death by 2030, Nepal needs to step up efforts to combat air pollution.