KATHMANDU, 6 April 2021:
A thick cover of blinding smog engulfed Kathmandu today, making it the world’s most polluted city with hazardous air quality.
The toxic air has sparked health concerns and posed a risk of respiratory complications for Covid-19 patients.
Pollution levels in the Himalayan country spiked yesterday, according to experts.
With no respite so far, health officials have advised the public against venturing outside their houses except in emergencies.
Thick smoke blocked the afternoon sun in the Kathmandu Valley today.
Sujata Sharma, a 30-year-old housewife in Bhaktapur, has stopped going around for her morning walks since last week because she feels difficulty breathing and a burning sensation in her eyes.
“It’s difficult to breathe. The sky is blanketed with smoke. We don’t even see the sun I haven’t seen such pollution before.”
The poor visibility affected the air traffic in Kathmandu. Deo Chandra Lal Karna, a spokesperson of the Tribhuvan International Airport, said several flights to Kathmandu were cancelled today.
Two international flights were also affected, according to airport officials.
IQAir, a Swiss group that measures the air quality, said Kathmandu was the most polluted city this afternoon.
The risk of respiratory complications for Covid-19 patients has complicated, health professionals said, after the Air Quality Index (AQI) reached the “hazardous” level at 328 by 11.30am.
Dhaka came in second with a pollution level at 196, Wuhan, China at third at 190, and New Delhi, India fourth with a pollution level at 187, according to IQAir.
AQI measures the concentration of lung-damaging airborne particles known as PM2.5.
The level between 0-50 is ‘good’, 51-100 is ‘moderate’, 101-150 is ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups, 151-200 is ‘unhealthy’, 201-300 is ‘very unhealthy’, and anything above 301 is ‘hazardous’.
Doctors say deteriorating air quality can cause pneumonia, bronchitis, conjunctivitis, skin allergy, stroke, and heart problems.
As the severity of Covid-19 is high among patients with comorbidities, the worsening air quality in Kathmandu Valley was a terrible sign.
“New cases are rising and this time we are very much at risk,” said Raju Pangeni, a senior pulmonologist. “Those residing in polluted cities are at high risk.”
A study published in Cardiovascular Research, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology, estimated that long-term exposure to air pollution caused about 15% of Covid-19 deaths worldwide.
The health ministry, last week, asked people to stay indoors and wear face masks if they need to go out.
The government closed educational institutions for four days last week.
Open fires, vehicular emissions, dust from construction sites, and damaged areas from earthquakes caused the pollution, said Environment Ministry spokesperson Prakash Lamsal.
As per data on forest fires accumulated by the Nepal Forest Fire Management Chapter, 594 fires have been detected in Nepal in the past 24 hours from Monday.