Regional Focus: A Sustainable Atmosphere for the Kathmandu Valley (SusKat)

Air pollution is a major environmental challenge in South Asia, which is one of the most polluted as well as most heavily-populated regions of the world. South Asia could benefit substantially from fast action to reduce air pollution, including short-lived climate warming pollutants (SLCP), such as methane and black carbon emissions, with implementation of only a small number of already available measures. It could prevent over one-million premature deaths a year, considerably decrease atmospheric warming, reduce regional disruptions to rainfall patterns and cryosphere melting in the Himalayas, and avoid the loss of about 10-million tons of major crops in the region annually. The benefits are greatest in and near areas where emissions are reduced.
 
These air pollution related impacts are disproportionately high in Nepal, as global reports suggest. Kathmandu is one of the most polluted cities in Asia. A basic understanding of air pollution in Nepal is made possible only by a handful of past studies in the Kathmandu Valley, where the capital of Nepal is located, and other parts of Nepal. An urgent need exists to generate science-based knowledge at the national level, taking into account the unique features of Nepal (geography, society, politics, finance, institutions, development etc.) that can be used to develop appropriate mitigation measures.
 

Kathmandu and surrounding regions covered with regional haze that obscures the beautiful view of the Himalayas. Kathmandu and surrounding regions covered with regional haze that obscures the beautiful view of the Himalayas.

 

Kathmandu and surrounding regions on a clear day. Photos are courtesy of Bidya Pradhan and Pradeep Dangol, ICIMOD, Nepal.Kathmandu and surrounding regions on a clear day. Photos are courtesy of Bidya Pradhan and Pradeep Dangol, ICIMOD, Nepal.

 

Therefore, the project Sustainable Atmosphere for the Kathmandu Valley (SusKat), led by Dr. Maheswar Rupakheti, is being implemented to conduct a comprehensive assessment of various aspects of air pollution in the Kathmandu valley in particular, and more generally in the broader region, primarily focusing on
 
- Understanding the physical processes and dynamics of air pollution through a combination of intensive sampling of the region (including unprecedented airborne measurements), and focused model simulations
 
- Understanding air pollution impacts on public health, agriculture, tourism, and local/regional climate
 
- Analyzing plausible development scenarios and future emissions

- Solution-oriented atmospheric modeling, i.e., evaluation of the anticipated impact of various possible mitigation solutions (social, technological, financial, legal, political, and planning strategies)
 
- Increasing public awareness of the effects of air pollution and multiple benefits (health, crops, water and climate) that result from reducing air pollution, and
 
- Going beyond scientific problem diagnosis and supporting local implementation of mitigation measures based on the scientific knowledge.
 
This “real-world” project is aimed at showcasing how science-based local implementation of mitigation measures to reduce air pollution including SLCPs, when implemented at an appropriate scale, will result in multiple co-benefits for air quality, regional haze, tourism, public health, and crop productivity, as well as reducing the local and regional climate change. The project is also expected to generate knowledge on possible transfer of implementation successes to similar efforts in other regions.