Forest fires have led to an increase in air pollution in Nepal. (Representational)
Nepal's capital Kathmandu has continued to reign in the top 10 positions in the list of most polluted cities in the world as forest fire continues to rage across the nation affecting visibility.
According to IQ Air, an organization measuring the real-time pollution of 101 cities in the world, Kathmandu on Sunday mid-day stood in the first position with the Air Quality Index crossing the mark of 190.
As per the US Embassy air quality measuring station in Phora Durbar, the AQI of Kathmandu crossed the mark of 200 terming the air quality to be toxic to breathe. As the AQI continues to drop the visibility of the bowl-shaped capital has continued to smother.
"Earlier days when I came here, I could see the Dharahara tower more clearly but now I have to search for it as the haze shrouds the capital. I have realized the extent of pollution that is in existence in Kathmandu Valley," Ramesh Devkota, a resident of Kathmandu who came to the hillside temple of Aakash Bhairab told ANI.
Last Thursday, the Department of Environment under the Ministry of Forestry and Environment said that the level of air pollution in Kathmandu Valley and the central and eastern parts of the country has increased due to local sources of pollution such as fires and burning of agricultural residues in more than 140 places across the country including Bara, Parsa, Chitwan.
The smoke igniting from the burns flows in and dumps in the bowl-shaped valley since a week has shrouded the valley. Experts and doctors have suggested wearing a mask can minimize the effects in some ways.
The Ministry of Health and Population earlier week also advised the public to put on a face mask to mitigate the possible impact of air pollution. Due to this level of air pollution, especially children, the elderly, respiratory patients and heart patients are more affected, the Department of Environment has appealed to people of other age groups to take special precautions when going out.
Due to air pollution, the number of patients with respiratory diseases, lung cancer, heart disease, hypertension and stroke has increased in Nepal in recent years. Studies have shown that 42,000 people died in Nepal in 2019 due to indoor and outdoor air pollution, 19 per cent of the total deaths due to air pollution were children under 5 years of age and 27 per cent were of the age group above 70 years.
"I am not able to see Kathmandu due to the pollution. I came to Kirtipur to see the valley from a hilltop but couldn't see anything at all, so am returning back to my room," said Bishal Thapa, expressing his anguish.
The level of air pollution is divided into different levels from 0 to 500 based on the impact of air pollution on public health, and the AQI of 201 to 300 has been given Kathmandu Valley a purple colour. This is a very unhealthy level for human health.
It is believed that pollution has increased rapidly due to the fires in different parts of the country and the burning of agricultural residues during this season.
As air pollution continues to rise, Sunday domestic flights have been generally affected. Flights to Pokhara, Bharatpur, and Tumlingtar among other destinations were hampered due to poor visibility, the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) Office said.
TIA Office spokesperson Teknath Sitaula said flights have been completely affected in three domestic destinations including Pokhara. Flights to Simara opened a few minutes back. No flights have been made to Pokhara, Bharatpur and Tumlingtar.
Although flights could not be conducted to three destinations until now, they were operated to some destinations with the clearing up of the weather. The TIA Office said 115 flights have been scheduled in the domestic sector today.
The flights have been affected due to the increased air pollution at various places in the country including in Kathmandu for three days. Flights to Pokhara were affected on Friday and Saturday as well.
Sitaula said although the flights in the international sector were generally affected in the morning, they are taking place regularly now. An aircraft of Qatar Airways had to hold for about two hours as it made a missed approach.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)