If there is one thing that Kathmandu’s poor air quality has shown us is that a place could gain the tag of ‘the most polluted’ city even though the country’s carbon emissions are very low in comparison to the developed countries of the world.
Air pollution is the presence of air pollutant that is detrimental to human health and the planet as a whole. Air pollutant could often transcend national frontiers and cause adverse impact on neighbouring countries too. That’s why pollution that adversely affects the areas in one country could cause damage in another country by crossing borders through pathways like water or air. This is termed as trans-frontier or transboundary pollution. It is to be noted that pollution can be transported across hundreds and even thousands of kilometres.
environmental damage from the relevant polluter. Thus, according to the Principle, the responsibility to repair the environmental damage is that of the polluter.
Nepal, with a population of 30 million people, also cannot leave its role of reducing air pollution. Keith Hawkins, an environmentalist, argues that pollution is an administrative creation. It is high time to think – does Nepal have a robust mechanism to keep a check on hospitals, factories, or other industrial establishments that are emitting solid wastes, gases, or pollutants? Of course, Nepal doesn’t have that.
Nepal’s major cities like Kathmandu, Janakpur, Birgunj, or Biratnagar, have become safe haven for diesel commercial vehicles which are more than 10 years old. The government agencies have not shown any interest so far in deregistering old vehicles.
The government could come up with a policy that would ban the plying of old vehicles, at least, on the streets of Kathmandu and major cities of Nepal. Diesel vehicles and heavy-duty trucks are a major source of air pollution, which includes ozone, particulate matter, and other smog-forming emissions.
What concerns many is that Nepal’s roads rarely have trees on either side of the road. This is sheer violation of Section 16 of the Public Roads Act, 1974 which makes it mandatory on the Department of Roads to ensure the plantation of trees on the right and left hand sides of a public road and it also obliges local authorities to take care of planted trees.
Constitutionally speaking, the right to a clean and green environment is an individuals’ fundamental right in Nepal. The Constitution of Nepal adopts and enacts a plethora of green laws to advance the cause of the green republic. To mention a few, an individuals’ right to live in a clean environment (Article 30); right to clean water and hygiene (Article 35); food sovereignty (Article 36); the right of state to carry out the land reforms for bringing reformation in agriculture or environment protection (Article 25); or the right of the consumer to have quality foodstuffs and services (Article 44) are put in place.
As the air quality in Kathmandu has deteriorated recently and climbed to hazardous levels, the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology on March 29 ordered schools to be closed for four days, i.e., till April 2. If Kathmandu’s air pollution has climbed to such a hazardous level, who is to be blamed for this? Can’t we reach the conclusion that the constitutional guarantees have been temporarily suspended? Or, enforcement agencies are not properly working.