The air pollution levels are sky high. Literally. There are some places where you can’t see the sky in broad daylight. With all the dust getting resuspended, the vehicles giving off smoke that stays lingering in the atmosphere, surviving the air pollution in Kathmandu is a much difficult task.
It isn’t of much help that the construction (or should we say destruction?) of the roads never seem to end. There are clouds around us, clouds of dust, everywhere we go. All this has made our dear city Kathmandu un-breathable.
To look at pollution levels, Nepal follows the National Ambient Air Quality Standard 2012. It has set the 24-hour limit of PM 2.5 pollutants at 40 µg/m3 and PM 10 at 120µg/m3. This is nearly twice the WHO limit. Kathmandu Valley’s pollution exceeds both the limits multiple times.
In the midst of all this, we Kathmandu dwellers seriously need a coping mechanism. Our Government is happy digging roads even more and increasing the dust in our air (as if vehicular smoke wasn’t already enough). Who cares.
So, we have to deal with the problems ourselves. Here are some tips to help you in your quest at surviving the air pollution in Kathmandu.
1. Invest in a High Quality Respirator
When I say High Quality, I’m asking you to throw away that NRs. 10 surgical mask. They don’t do anything against pollution.
If you really want to protect yourself from pollution, you need to buy a more sophisticated respirator. It should come with an active carbon filter layer and stick to your face properly. There shouldn’t be any leakage of air. It also should have a valve which opens and shuts as you exhale and inhale.
Try Vogmasks, Metro Mask, N95 or N99 masks. They protect you against particulate matter and help keep your lungs clean. Yes they are expensive but they’re worth the investment if you think about what the pollution will do to your lungs and internal organs. A cheaper alternative is the Venus Mask that you can find in most sports and pharmacy shops these days for NRs. 200.
2. Don’t Go Out Unprotected at Night
This is something I’ve seen commonly in Kathmandu. In the evenings and night, the people walk out without masks or coverings. Same is the case when the vehicles are lesser in roads. We think that since it’s cold, or the number of vehicles is lesser at any given time, the pollution is lesser. The truth is the exact opposite.
Just because the vehicles are lesser at night or it is colder doesn’t mean the pollution is less. Instead, particulate matter is most concentrated when it is colder. The phenomenon is known as “inversion” and the pollutants get trapped at night causing highest levels of toxicity in the air, regardless of the number of vehicles.
Don’t step outside at night. If you absolutely have to, make sure you wear your masks.
3. Jogging Might Not Be the Best Exercise
Since the pollution levels are so high, exercising outdoors does more harm than good to your body. Although health practitioners used to recommend us to walk, jog or run outdoors in the morning, even they would refrain from the advice now.
The air pollution levels are so high that it poses serious health risks to those who exercise outdoors regularly in the city areas. You need to exercise, that goes without question. So you’d rather stick to exercising indoors. Go to a yoga club, or join a fitness club. But please, don’t exercise outdoors.
4. Buy Some Air Purifying Plants
We Nepalis love having potted plants in our houses. So why not buy some that will do good to the air around your house in addition to the aesthetics? They can aid you in surviving the air pollution in Kathmandu.
One air purifying plant we Nepalis probably already have is the Devil’s Ivy, or what we call the Money Plant. Surround your homes with more of such plants like Dracaena, Garden Mum, Ficus, Snake Plant, Boston Fern, and the universal favorite – Aloe Vera.
Since buying high tech air purifiers for each room of the house isn’t something we can afford, we need to work at what we can and take it from there. After all, the ultimate solution lies with the Government and Policy makers acknowledging our right to clean air.
These four points will help take you a bit further in your quest at surviving the air pollution in Kathmandu. Keep yourself safe, the air around us is toxic and can also prove to be lethal. Make sure you are protected at all times.