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The Third Pole, Vol. 8-10, PP 27-33:2010 Dilli Raj Gautam …..




Dilli Raj Gautam, PhD

Department of Geography Education
Tribhuvan University, Kirtipur


Rapid increase in human and vehicular population along with a continuous increase in primary energy
consumption in Kathmandu metropolis results in continuous increase in TSP, PM10 SO2, CO, NO2 and other
air polluting dust smog and gases. Emissions from automobiles, factories and domestic heating, cooking,
refuse burning in Metropolitan areas have created air pollution which has threatened the well being of the
city dwellers. Housing congestion, traffic congestion and various commercial activities have produced high
amount pollutant emissions in various forms which have ultimately polluted the surrounding environment
and adversely affected human health in the metropolis.

Key words: Metropolis, energy, emissions, human health and environment

Introduction radioactive compounds (radioactive gases), the

air tend to be polluted (Gautam, 2000). Moreover
Air pollution may be defined as the presence of large increases in population causing loss of
one or more contaminants such as dust, fumes, forest and advancement of modern technology
gas, mist, odor, smoke or vapor in the atmosphere have resulted in air pollution problem in recent
which may prove to be injurious to plant, years.
animals and human life (Perkins, 1974). It can
also be defined as the outdoor ambient The impact of polluted air on health takes into
atmosphere containing harmful pollutants account the type and duration and amount of
which adversely affect man and his contaminants present in the air. The air at the
environment. It is the disequilibrium condition surface consists primarily of nitrogen and
of the air caused due to introduction of foreign oxygen 78 and 21 percent respectively. Much of
elements from natural as well as anthropogenic the remaining one percent is water vapor and
sources to the air so that the air becomes injurious carbon dioxide. The activity of humans in
to biological communities in general and human generating energy, manufacturing goods and
communities in particular (Singh, 1995). To a disposing of wastes results in release into
large extent man himself is responsible for air atmosphere of a number of pollutants that alter
pollution. His activities, careless technology, plant metabolism and induced diseases (Tiwari,
casual attitude and lack of awareness may 2010). Regarding the human health, air
contribute to air pollution. Sometimes natural pollution can cause severe and chronic health
factors such as fog, mist, bacteria, wind velocity ailments particularly respiratory one. In this
and its direction and volcanic ash may be the connection, air pollution is a growing menace
cause of air pollution. If the unpolluted gases in to health in urban areas, especially, in the cities
the atmosphere are contaminated with man of the valley region. Air pollutants may exist in
made pollutants i.e: aerosol, dusts and a particular place for a long time because of
particulate matters, gases and fumes of sulfur climatic factors. Inhalation of such contaminated
compounds (SO2, H2S), nitrogen compounds air adversely affects the respiratory system of
(NO, NO2, NH3), oxygen compounds (CO, CO2, the man. Hence, the study of the air pollution
O3), Halogen Compounds (HF, HCl), organic especially in the urban areas is essential to
compounds (aldehydes), Hydrocarbons and overcome the human health problem. In the case
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of air pollution very few geographical studies Pollutants may be of primary origin emitted
have been done in Nepal. In this context, present directly from the source. Carbon monoxide (CO)
paper is an attempt to identify the causes of the and Nitric Oxide (NO) are primary pollutants
air pollution, evaluate its spatial pattern of air produced during the combustion of carbon based
quality, interpret possible consequences of air fuels. Further oxidation of NO forms NO2 and is
pollution and recommend mitigating measures known as secondary pollutant. Ozone (O3) is
for controlling air pollution. another secondary pollutant formed in the
atmosphere by the action of sunlight on NO2. In
Methods and Materials urban areas, O3 forming reactions are enhanced
Present paper is based on both primary and by the presence of hydrocarbons from vehicle
second sources of information. In order to collect exhausts.
primary data, air pollution monitoring was made Sources of Air pollution and Problems in
in the months of December, 1998 and April, 1999. Kathmandu Metropolis
Monitoring stations were selected from
residential, commercial and industrial areas. Besides Indian metropolitian cities (Kanpur,
TSP and PM10 were collected by the low volume Mumbai, Chennai, Calcutta, Delhi etc), some
air sampler (Sibata Japan Model AN200 other third world cites like Sao Paulo, Santiago,
Anderson type with the air flow rate of Bangkok, Shanghai and other cities in Southern
28.5litres/minutes). The SO2 and NO2 data were China have been facing severe air pollution
obtained from the samples collected by Enviro problem (Sing, 1985, Hardog, 1992). Compared
Tech, India Model APM820 which was run at to other metropolitan cities, the problem of air
air flow rate of 0.3 litres/min for 24 hours. The pollution in Kathmandu is not so alarming.
CO content in the ambient air was measured at However, with increasing number of
the sampling station by operating CO gas automobiles, the situation is likely to worsen.
detector tube and the recorded CO was tabulated Similar condition prevails in other cities of Nepal
for analysis, Secondary sources of information such as Pokhara and Biratnagar (CEDA, 1989).
were collected from different published and At Kathmandu, Pokhara and Biratnagar the
unpublished official documents. Descriptive suspended particulate matter (SPM) is high. An
and analytical techniques were applied for data attempt has been made to evaluate the increased
presentation. air pollution level created by unprecedented
growth of human population, housing
Discussion and Interpretation congestion, traffic congestion, increased
commercial and various other activities. All these
Causes of Air Pollution
have produced high amount of pollutant
In nature the air remains free from industrial, emissions in various forms which have
commercial or urban influence which seems to ultimately polluted the surrounding
be relatively pure. To such a pure air, various environment and adversely affected the human
gaseous and particular matters enter by human health in the metropolis.
activities like industries, dumping of solid and
More than hundred brick kilns and factories
liquid waste, smog from domestic cooking,
were established in south and east of the
airplanes, railway engines and automobiles.
Kathmandu at 5-10 km periphery. The coal used
When these emissions are mixed in the air, they
in these industries emits dust, smoke and CO
pollute the air and adversely affect life of plants,
which have added to the air pollution problem.
animals and human health and damage valuable
The poorly maintained vehicles along with the
and enchanting buildings and monuments. The
congestion of traffic problem produced large
fossil fuel emissions are one of the major sources
amount of lead emissions. Besides these,
of air pollution. The emitted gases include
emissions from domestic cooking, heating and
carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and oxides of
burning of coal and cow dung also contributes
nitrogen, volatile organic compounds, fly ash
to the air pollution in Kathmandu. Though the
and other suspended particulate matters.
urban people have environmental awareness
Dilli Raj Gautam …..AIR POLLUTION/29
since 1980, the increasing population pressure, generate high emission. Besides these, the
modernization, and demand of more energy for vehicular pollution also depends upon the
domestic purpose, public utilities and industries quality and quantity of fuels and efficiency of
have caused the increase in air pollution day by combustion.
day. Thus, pollution generated by energy used
in large quantities has become a serious problem Industrial Pollution
in the urban environment of Nepal. The large
In the Kathmandu valley, marble industry and
number of vehicles with low efficiency led to the
brick factories are the polluters of the air. Some
emission of toxic pollutants. The adverse impact
existing industries like Chirag Foam Industry,
of such pollutants has also been tolerated by the
Guheswori Rolling Mills, Nepal Gas Industry,
urban dwellers so far.
Ratna Feed Industry, Paper and Pulp Industry,
Automobile Pollution in Kathmandu Nepal Biscuit Company and others located in
Metropolis Kathmandu are still polluting the environment.
In case of Chirag Foam Industry (Balaju) which
In the Kathmandu metropolis, the automobile produces mattress, pillow and cushion through
exhaust and vehicular emissions are the major a short synthetic chemical process, the main
sources of air pollutions. Besides these, building environmental problem due to the fumes and
construction and domestic sources also pollute the gases from the synthetic chemicals like
the urban environment. Large increase in polyol and toluene di-isocynate (TDI) of which
number of automobiles has created an alarming later one is considered to be hazardous and
air pollution problem. produces indoor pollution. The mixing of poliyol
and TDI poses health hazard to the workers
It is evident from table 1 that the total number of causing respiratory diseases, eye irritation and
the vehicles registered in Kathmandu valley nose and throat problems. Though this indoor
was 575417 whereas up to the mid of 2000 it air pollution has been controlled to some extent
was only 186521. It shows an increase in vehicle by the provision of exhaust fan and ventilation,
by 208.49 % within 10 yrs. In Kathmandu, the they are inadequate and affect the surrounding
motorcycles and scooters share about 76 % of environment. Bottlers Nepal and Swastik Aerate
the total number of vehicles followed by car, jeep, Products (Sinamangal) which produce soft drink
vans 16.36 % and heavy vehicles 5.59 % (Table also emit carbon monoxide causing air pollution.
The major factors causing air pollution in the Population Increase
city are old and poorly maintained vehicles,
narrow roads and lanes of the city and high Besides immigrants, who have settled, daily
frequency of idling and deceleration lead to commuters are also major source of air pollution
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in Kathmandu. They come for daily wage work less than 11z aerodynamic (PM 10), sulfur
or commercial or other purposes. It is estimated dioxide, nitrogen dioxide (NO 2 ), carbon
that about 20% additional population (i.e. monoxide (CO) and lead (Pb) are shown in
tourists and floating population) has settled in Table 2, December 1998.
Kathmandu Metropolis (Shrestha, 1999), with
frequent cycles. This activity has also polluted It is evident from Table 2 that the concentration
the urban environment. of TSP in December 1998 at Sundhara was 295
zg/m3 whereas at kalimati it was 287 zg/m3.The
Domestic Pollution TSP concentration at Chabihil was found to be
209 zg/m3 followed by 195 zg/m3 at Balaju and
Domestic pollution is mainly caused by cooking. 165 zg/m 3 at Thapathali. It shows that
For cooking purpose, LPG, Kerosene oil, wood Sundhara and Kalimati stations have higher
dust and cow dung are used. Usually the poor concentration of TSP than the permissible limit
and low income people who live in the congested of WHO (150-230 zg/m3). Similarly the PM10
houses use wood dust, cow dung and Kerosene concentration was found tobe 225 zg/m3, 220
oil for cooking purpose. All these produce smoke zg/m3, 169 zg/m3, 148 zg/m3 and 134 zg/m3
causing indoor air pollution which adversely at Sundhara, kalimati,Chabihil, Balaju and
affects their health. Thapathali respectively.
Air Pollution Monitoring Parameters The concentration of SO2, in December 1998,is
15.0 zg/m3 at Sundhara, Kalimati and
The earlier study reveals that TSP and PM10 are
Thapathali each. Its concentration at Kalimati
most important pollutants in Kathmandu. The
and Chabihil was found to be <20 zg/m3 and
annual average concentration of TSP was found
14 zg/m 3 respectively. Thus the SO 2
to be about180 zg/m3 at Babarmahal measured
concentraion is quite low as compared to the
at5m above ground level (URBAIR 1997). This
is more than twice than WHO limit of 60 to 90 WHO limit (100-150 zg/ m3).
zg/m3. Hence, considering the severity of the air The NO2 concentration at Sundhara was 13.75
pollutants, TSp, PM10, SO2, NO2, CO and Pb have zg/ m3 where as it was found to be 12.15 zg/ m3,
been monitored. 9.65 zg/ m3, 8.60 zg/ m3 and 8.0 zg/ m3 at
Air Quality in December 1998 Kalimati, Balaju, Thapathali and Chabil
respectively. Its concentration is very low than
The ambient air quality assessment as worked the WHO limit (150 zg/ m3).
out in December 1998 and April 1999 with a
The highest concenttation of CO was found at
time interval of 24 hours with regards to the total
Kalimati (2.99 zg/ m3) followed by Thapathali
suspended particulate (TSP), Particulate matters
Dilli Raj Gautam …..AIR POLLUTION/31
(2.50 zg/ m3), Sundhara (1.78 zg/ m3), Balaju Balaju. WHO limit for NO2 is 150 zg/ m3. The
(1.80 zg/ m3) and Chabahil (1.30 zg/ m3). highest concentration of CO was found to be at
sundhara (3.42 zg/ m3) whereas at Chabahil, it
In the month of December 1998, the concentration was the lowest (0.57 zg/ m3).
of lead (Pb) was recorded as 0.098 zg/ m3 at
Sundhara, 0.069 zg/ m3 at Kalimati, 0.057 zg/ In the case of lead concentration in the ambient
m3 at Balaju, 0.030 zg/ m3 at Thapathali and air, according to ministry of population and
0.020 zg/ m3 at Chabahil (Table 2). Thus, the environment (MoPE) the permissible limit is 0.05
concentration of Pb at sundhara, Kalimati and zg/ m3. The result shows that there was high
Balaju was found to be higher than the concentration of Pb at Sundhara (0.202 zg/ m3),
permissible limit (0.05 zg/ m3) of WHO. Kalimati (0.096 zg/ m3) and Chabahil (0.058 zg/
m3. At Balaju and Thapathali, it was less than
The air pollution measurement carried out in the permissible limit (Table 3).
the months of april, 1999, reveals that the
concentration of TSP at Sundhara was 569 zg/ The comparison between the air pollutants
m3 whereas at kalimati it was only 436 zg/ m3. concentration levels measured in Kathmandu.
Chabhil has recorded 375 zg/ m3 followed by The result shows that the TSP, PM10, SO2 and
321 zg/ m3 at Thapathali and 223 at Balaju. NO2 are found to be higher in early summer that
Thus, the TSP concentration is much higher than in winter. The reason is the weather condition
the WHO permissible limit (150-230 zg/ m3). of Kathmandu.

Table 3 reveals that the concentration of PM10 at To evaluate the spatial pattern of air quality in
Sundhara was 488 zg/ m3. Similarly, at Kalimati Kathmandu, concentration of PM10 has been
, Balaju, Chabil and Thapathaliu the PM 10 analysed. For this purpose six monitoring
values were found to be 341 zg/ m3, 153 zg/ m3 stations were chosen among them, Putalisadak
and 279 zg/m3 respectively which were more and Patan were selected for roadside station,
than double of the WHO limit (70 zg/ m3). Thamel for residential station, Machhegaoun for
valley background station and Bhaktapur and
The concentration of SO2 in April 1999 was Kirtipur for Urban background stations. PM10 is
found to be less than 20 zg/ m3 at all the stations the most important air pollutant in Kathmandu
showing very low concentration as compared Metropolis. The study reveals that the annual
to WHO limit of 125 zg/ m3. The NO2 value is average concentration of PM10 at Putalisadak
less than 30 zg/m3 at all the sampling sites 204 zg/m3 (in 2004 AD) whereas it exceeded
except at Sundhara where it was 30 zg/ m3. The 228 zg/m 3 (in 2006 AD) (Table 4). These
lowest concentration of 16 zg/ m3 was found at
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quantities are higher than WHO permissible PM10 is associated with mortality, respiratory
level of 70 zg/m3 (Table 4). illness including chronic bronchitis, increased
asthema attack and pulmonary emphysema.
Table 4 reveals that the concentration of PM10 at Health risk due to air pollution is more in
Patan ranges from 190 zg/m3 (2004) to 200 zg/ children than audult.
m3 (2005). The concentration of PM10 in the
range of 121 zg/m3 to 350 zg/m3 lies in the Mitigating Measures of Air Pollution
category of unhealthy (CBS, 2008). Hence, the
city areas of Kathmandu and Patan are not free Air pollution can be controlled by making
from polluted air all over the year. proper changes in raw materials, operation
and system control. Dispersion of sources of
air pollutants is the another method of
controlling air pollution in industrial process.
Contaminants should be distributed over a
large area in less time and hence dilute the
concentration of pollutants nears the source.
Investigating the main source of inputs,
contaminants should be collected which is the
easiest solution of air pollution problem. The
following specific measures will be
appropriate to control air pollution: Unleaded
petrol to reduce lead concentration in ambient
air, the vehicles should be driven with
electricity or hydrogen, methane as a source
of energy, two stage combustion should be
used to reduce the emission of NO 2 ,
evaporation should be controlled from fuel
Consequences of Air Pollution tank and carborator. Use of filter , improvement
in traffic management, dust particulate
A high concentration of CO can be lethal when emitting industries started with electrostatic
CO is inhaled it combines with haemoglobin to precipitator, introduction of electric powered
form carboxyhemoglobin. Some studies reveals trolley bus service and strictly implementation
that even low concentration of of emission control law may be effective in
carboxyhaemoglobin exacerbate heart attack controlling air pollution.
thickening the blood vessels may affects the
nervous system. NO2 is much toxic at sufficiently Conclusion
high concentration exposure to its fumes can
irritate lung fatal effects may occour at 50 to 300 With the increasing standard of living and
ppm and exposure to 25 ppm may result in growing need of fast transportation, the
bronchitis and bronco pneumonia. Exposure to number of vehicles and automobiles has been
it pulmonary tract may affect. Increase risk of on the increase. The total number of vehicles
viral infections higher respiratory illness rates, registered in Kathmandu was 109613 by mid
eye burning, chest tighten and discomfort are 1997 whereas the number reached 575417 in
the other effects of NO2. 2010. Such a large increase in the number of
vehicles has generated and released excessive
The exposure to SO2 causes irritation of eye, CO, PM 10 and dust causing air pollution.
respiratory system, increased mucos production, Besides these, industries and human activities
cough and shortness of breath. Aggrevates heart have also contributed smoke and dust
and lung diseases, increase chronic bronchitis, particles causing air pollution in the
asthma and cancer. It may be responsible for the Meropolitan city. It is obvious from the study
decay of buildoings and monumandts. that PM 10 and TSP is higher than the WHO
permissible limit.
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