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Nepal: rapidly deteriorating environment could curtail growth, warns UN-backed report

Nepal: rapidly deteriorating environment could curtail growth, warns UN-backed report

Urgent and decisive measures are essential to curtail environmental degradation which is complicating the growth of Nepal’s capital Kathmandu, a United Nations-backed report released today cautioned.

“Kathmandu will continue to grow in future and, if rational planning and development strategies are not formulated, its growth will become a nightmare in the environmental sense,” said the report, entitled the Kathmandu Valley Environmental Outlook, which was the result of a collaboration among the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the Nepalese Government and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development.

The report cited a multitude of economic and human pressures – such as growing urbanization, population growth, unrestricted and poorly planned land development and insufficient coordination among Government agencies – as some of the main causes behind the area’s environmental decline.

Of particular concern is the management of solid waste and wastewater which “has become a daunting task as urban areas have grown haphazardly without provisions or plans for appropriate infrastructure and services in these sectors,” the report stated. The lack of proper sanitation and drainage systems has lead to the dumping of sewage and garbage into the rivers.

Air quality in Kathmandu is also rapidly deteriorating, primarily because of vehicular emissions. Exhaust fumes increased four-fold between 1993 and 2001 and account for 38 per cent of the concentration of PM10, a pollutant taking the form of either solid or liquid particles in the air.

Air pollution has serious ramifications for health and tourism. Roughly 1,600 premature deaths yearly are attributed to poor air quality and a tourist survey referred to pollution as the number one area in which improvement is needed.

Water pollution has emerged as the most serious public health issue in the Kathmandu Valley. “Solid waste disposal and dumping household and industrial effluents into the rivers are responsible for the deteriorating quality of river water, causing water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea, dysentery, cholera and skin diseases,” the report stated.

The report recommended several measures to stem environmental deterioration, including improved planning and zoning, better waste management, infrastructural and technical measures and vastly improved coordination and enforcement. It also underscored the importance of community mobilization, which is especially crucial as the area is prone to natural disasters.

“With the potential for catastrophic disaster from earthquakes, many of these measures are not only important for human health, tourism development and the quality of life but essential to the preservation of life,” the report added.