“The Valley Chokes”: Then and now

Himals prototype issue, published in May 1987, dealt in detail with the pollution problems of Kathmandu. It was entitled, ´The Valley Chokes". Among other things, the issue raised the following points:
Stagnant sewers, mounds of solid wastes, open-air latrines and drinking water swarming with bacteria are a part of the Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur ecosystem. There are few specific laws to control pollution. Air quality is not monitored. A United Nations official says, "The first impression of foreigners is that Nepal is beautiful but dirty," while a South Asian magazine viciously labels Kathmandu Valley "Toilet Bowl of Asia". Only 70 tons of the solid wastes generated daily by the city is by the German-aided Solid Waste Management. Untreated sewage is released directly into the Bagmati and Bishnumati rivers. The Bansbari Leather Factory soaks 400 buffalo hides a day, and its liquid wastes are released untreated into theDhobi Khola. The management is contemplating primary treatment of its wastes. The water of Kathmandu, in some cases, contains 4800 E, coli bacteria per ml. of water. The Himal Cement factory produces 5 to 6 tons of dust in six hours. Its emissions are 4-5 mg per sq m, compared to 120 mg and 250 mg per sq m in West Germany and India. The Government has approved the installation of a ´wet scrubber´ to reduce the dust emissions by 400 tons every year. 25,640 motorised vehicles are registered in the Valley, and badly maintained diesel engines create smog.

There has been practically no check on the escalating pollution. Himal Cement Factory continues to spew dust: a ´wet scrubber´ is still to be installed and the only defence of the management is that the Government hasyettosetamininium air quality standard. The Bansabari Leather factory has yet to act on its intention to treat its effiuenct. The number of motorised vehicles is up to 60,000— among them 22,000 light vehicles, 6,300 heavy vehicles and 25,700 two-wheelers. Exhaust from about 30,000 vehicles alone amo unts to 22,000 tonnes per year of carbon dioxide, 22,000 tonnes per year of carbon monoxide, 2,000 tonnes of nitrogen dioxide, 400 tonnes of hydrocarbon and 333 tonnes of sulphur dioxide. As yet there are no mandatory emmission checks, even for decades-old diesel buses and mini-buses. Air quality is still not monitored. Carpet-washing plants have increased their work-volume 20-fold, channelling the acid wash directly into rivers and rivulets. In all, the Valley has 983 manufacturing units, 90 per cent of which are located within the towns. Population of the Valley is estimated at 950,000 and will probably top 1.4 million by 2005.

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