South Asia is a global air pollution hotspot, and airborne pollutants are a major environmental health risk across the region, where they are responsible for the premature deaths of around two million people annually. The situation is particularly grave in Nepal, with the Kathmandu Valley among the worst affected regions worldwide. Until recently the main causes of this enormous problem and the relative roles of various pollution sources were largely unknown. The Sustainable Atmosphere for the Kathmandu Valley (SusKat) project was initiated by the IASS (now RIFS) in 2012 to address this research deficit.
Measuring and reducing emissions of airborne pollutants
The research project, which aims to reduce air pollution levels in Nepal, operates across five fields of activity: improving the scientific data basis, identifying measures to reduce risks, involving key stakeholder groups, developing scientific capacities, and raising awareness among policymakers and the public. The project is conceived in several phases, with the first two phases concentrating on the scientific evidence base and establishing initial ties as a platform bringing together the range of involved stakeholders. The third phase, which will begin in mid-2017, will focus on capacity building and stakeholder engagement to identify and support implementation of the most promising mitigation measures.
Raising public awareness
In the project's third phase, researchers will be using the data collected during the first phases to identify evidence-based air quality measures that are appropriate to the conditions prevailing in Nepal. This work is complemented by efforts to foster greater dialogue between the science and policymaking communities and to raise public awareness of air pollution. Capacity-building of Nepalese researchers and institutions in the Kathmandu Valley to study and support the implementation of air quality measures is another aspect of this project, with the long-term goal of enabling research institutes and state agencies to monitor and address national air quality problems.
Research findings from this project are published in scientific papers and conference presentations. Key outputs will include the publication of a list of potential measures to lower concentrations of airborne pollutants and the organisation of various events to support dialogue.